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Pioneers Indeed: Why DU Will Spark A New Lacrosse Revolution
On May 25, 2015, the University of Denver Men's Lacrosse team did something no one has ever done in the history of NCAA Lacrosse: brought the NCAA D1 trophy on an airplane. Before the Pioneers' 10-5 win over the University of Maryland on Memorial Day Monday, the trophy had never traveled past the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains. For nearly half a century the most western point the NCAA D1 Men's Lacrosse trophy had journeyed was Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Before Denver's win Monday, only nine different teams had hoisted the trophy (Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Loyola [MD], Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia) which represented just five different states (Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia). More states are represented through Powerball winners than have won an NCAA D1 Men's Lacrosse trophy.
Denver, being only the tenth different school and sixth different state to rear an NCAA Champion, made history in many different ways Monday afternoon. However the most important aspect of this Denver University win is the fact that they have officially solidified themselves as an elite team, and the powerhouse in the west. Or at least as west as one can get in NCAA Lacrosse. Other than Colorado, the most "western" state with a division one men's lacrosse team is Ohio with Notre Dame.
So, what happens now that an outsider has stolen the NCAA Lacrosse crown? Growth. And it will all start through Denver. Lacrosse was already the fastest growing sport in the country, with states like Colorado, California, Texas and Arizona all making significant leaps in the past 5-10 years. There were 24,000 people in attendance at this year's National Lacrosse Championship, and hundreds of thousands more watched it on ESPN2 along with the coverage on Snap Chat. A large part of the country witnessed a small western school take down a perennial eastern powerhouse, and it's safe to say that a large amount of athletic directors were taking note as well. With lacrosse growing exponentially, and many schools wanting to grow through sports but aren't big or well known enough to have a football team, the maker's game may just be the answer. All wanting to follow in the footsteps the Pioneers first laid.
For many small schools looking to add sports, lacrosse will act as a saving grace. It's safer, cheaper and soon it will be even more popular than football. Youth programs are flourishing and many eastern players are making the exodus out west for warmer weather and less competition. In the next few years, Denver University is not going to be the most western school in all of division one lacrosse, but they may still be the best.