On a gorgeous Denver Sunday afternoon, a star was born.
Unfortunately for the University of Denver Pioneers, it was on the
visiting Ohio State Buckeyes' roster.
With time expiring in overtime, OSU freshman attackman Mario
Ventiquattro helped piggyback the Buckeyes to the top spot in their
division (4-0) with a career day and game-winning goal with 11 seconds
remaining. The win also ensures that the Pioneers will not be making an
encore performance at the NCAA tournament - at least not this season.
For two teams headed in entirely different directions, the rivals'
twelfth meeting was the only true common ground shared as the Great Western
Lacrosse League (GWLL) foes battled to an extra frame in front of over
2,000 fans at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
OSU was led to the thrilling victory on the sticks of Ventiquattro (3
goals, 1 assist), who nearly doubled his point total on the year with his
efforts in the game, along with fellow freshman, midfielder James Green (3,
0) and sophomore attackman, Jeff Ryan (2, 2). Junior transfer (Onodaga
C.C.) Stefan Schroder also came up with seven huge stops in net, including
one in OT, in route to the team's fourth consecutive league victory.
The Buckeyes were very energized from the onset. Their sidelines were
extremely vocal throughout the game, and they played with a sense of
passion and vigor that the Pioneers were rarely able match.
On their way to a dominating first half performance, OSU got off to a
quick start that saw them take a 5-1 lead into the break. The Scarlet and
Gray then withstood two second half 3-0 runs by the Pioneers to eventually
gut out their second conference road win in three days.
It was apparent that the Buckeyes came in knowing exactly what they
would need to do to stay unbeaten in league play and afford the Pioneers
their fourth loss at home this season. They were well prepared for
everything Denver threw at them, from their usually exceptionally effective
zone ride, to a large assortment of defensive looks and varied offensive
The two teams exchanged goals early with Ohio State singeing twine
first on a backside sneak by Ryan, who then beat the Denver goalie, senior
Jeb Hollingsworth, with a bounce shot to his stick-side.
OSU took a 2-1 lead after Ryan recorded his second goal about three
minutes later on a play that was almost identical to the first, this time
assisted by the team's leader in points, Joel Dalgarno (22, 21). Although
Dalgarno played a tremendous role as the quarterback of the Buckeye
offense, today was not his day as he twanged all three of his shots on goal
off of the pipe, making the assist his only tally on the score sheet.
From there, the game was a bit of a chess match between the two
coaching staffs that left the crowd somewhat bored, almost begging for
someone to blink first. The Pioneers were willing to play a no-pressure
zone on defense that allowed Ohio State to simply possess the ball at 'X'
and pose no real threat. Ohio State was content just holding the ball,
taking several stalling calls, and holding the ball behind the goal until
time was limited for a couple unsuccessful final shots in the first and
In the end, this probably hurt DU the most because they were already
behind and needed possessions to close the gap, and because the lack of
action took Pioneer fans out of the game more and more as time passed,
which then did not provide any sort of spark for Denver when they
desperately needed one to jumpstart their offense.
The second half was a stark contrast to the first as Denver
reinvigorated the audience and immediately went on their first of two 3-0
runs, possessing the ball for almost eight straight minutes and cutting the
OSU lead to one, 5-4.
The Buckeyes finally got a crack at some offense with their first
extended possession coming with about seven minutes remaining in the third
quarter. They answered DU's output with back-to-back goals to close out the
quarter up 7-4.
Two of Denver's midfielders, senior Ryan Shaughnessy (2, 0) and
sophomore Joey Murray (3, 1), tried their absolute best to will their team
to the win, each scoring two goals in the fourth quarter. Murray's second
of the quarter, third on the day, with 36 seconds in regulation tied the
game up (9-9) for the first time since the eight and a half minute mark of
the first quarter (1-1), and sent the game to overtime.
But Ohio State seemed to have the answer every time. Although Denver
took their momentum and the crowd's roaring support into the OT on their
side, and even got off three high-quality shots in the extra time, the game
was always the Buckeyes to lose.
Off of a turnover, one of Ohio State's defenseman caught Denver in
transition, ran the ball down the field to clear, made a pass to midfielder
Josh Funk, who then found Ryan waiting for the pass. Ryan briefly danced in
front of DU senior defenseman David Hahn, and then found Ventiquattro on
Hollingsworth's backside before he dove and stuffed it home to seal up the
While Ventiquattro bolted to his sideline and his team stormed the
field in sheer delight, Denver's defense sat on the ground dejected with
their heads down realizing their season, and any chance of postseason play,
was just lost.
The win improves Ohio State's record to 8-4 on the season, while
Denver, who never once led in the game, again falls to .500 at 7-7.
Up next for the Buckeyes is the game for all the marbles, as they host
another league rival, No.13-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday, April 28 at 1
p.m. The winner of the game will almost certainly win the GWLL and
therefore, represent the conference with the automatic qualifier in the
Finally, Ohio State will welcome the Army Black Knights to Columbus on
May 6 in a game that could have at-large bid implications for both teams.
Denver will finish out its disappointing season with a Saturday
evening game against in-state rival Air Force at 7:30 p.m., followed by a
trip to Philadelphia on May 5, as they close out the year against the
always-tough Quakers of the University of Pennsylvania.
Photos: Tim Head
Denver vs. Ohio State