DENVER (CBS4) – After the University of Denver’s incredible comeback in a 12-11 win over North Carolina in the NCAA lacrosse quarterfinal Sunday, the Pioneers advanced to take on the perennial powerhouse Orangemen of Syracuse in the semifinals.

The 14-4 Pioneers will play top-seeded Syracuse in next Saturday’s semifinals in Philadelphia. It’s the second time head coach Bill Tierney has led his team to the Final Four in the last three years.

Syracuse has a steeped tradition in lacrosse, having won 11 NCAA championship titles and churning out such superstars as brothers Paul and Gary Gait and Jim Brown. But Tierney says the Orange is a uniquely different team than what they built their reputation on.

“It used to be a fast break, high intensity, takeaway defense; and now they’re more of a defensive oriented team willing to win games 7-6 as they did last week against Yale to get to the Final Four,” Tierney said. “Very well coached, John Desko is one of the best coaches in the country. He’s been to a lot of Final Fours, he’s won four national championships on his own, and probably part of 10 or 11 of them.

“I’ve had the good or bad fortune to play against the Syracuse teams in all of my years at Princeton for a lot of championships. It’s going to be quite a challenge for the Pioneers.”

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Never in the history of lacrosse has a national champion been crowned from the west of the Appalachian Mountains.

“Up to a couple of years ago, there was never an NCAA tournament game west of the Mississippi either,” Tierney said. “So we’re making strides and hoping to bring that championship back this weekend.”

Cornell takes on Duke in the other semifinal game. Tierney said at this point it’s anybody’s game and he wouldn’t be surprised if any of the four teams left went home with the title.

“Anybody can win, it’s been a year of parity, we’ve all been talking about it for a long, long time,” he said. “(We) knocked off the number one rated team last weekend, now we have to play the number one seeded team. So hopefully we’ll keep it rolling.”

The Pioneers take on Syracuse this Saturday at 3 p.m. in Philadelphia. The game can be seen on ESPN2 or on the radio at 102.3/ESPN.

– By Matthew J. Buettner,

Watch more of the video with Bill Tierney in the Xfinity Monday Live! section.


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