Denver Pioneers face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste #9 heads down field with the ball after a face-off against Air Force Falcons Trent Harper #33 in the first quarter in the first round of the NCAA playoffs at Peter Barton Stadium May 13, 2017 in Denver.
Tewaaraton Award finalist Trevor Baptiste proved Saturday why he could become the first faceoff specialist to be named NCAA men’s lacrosse player of the year.
The Denver Pioneers’ junior, who became one of five Tewaaraton finalists Thursday, was the dominant force in the first-ever, all-Colorado NCAA Tournament game at sold-out Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
Against Air Force on a beautiful afternoon, Baptiste was 23-of-27 in draws and scored twice off wins in leading DU to a 17-10 victory and a trip to next week’s Elite Eight.
The Pioneers (12-3), who dominated possession because Babtiste and excellent team ball control, will play Notre Dame or Marquette at the May 20 quarterfinals in Hempstead, N.Y.
Notre Dame hosts Marquette in a first-round game Sunday in South Bend, Ind.
Air Force, which was making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, finishes 12-6.
Babtiste was nine-of-11 in faceoffs in the first half and won the first five to begin the third quarter, scoring off two of them. The Pioneers scored seven times in the third, getting a combined four goals from Babtiste and senior attack Connor Cannizzaro.
DU led 6-3 at halftime on the strength of Austin French’s two goals and three points. Air Force struck first but midfielder Max Planning tied it and French added consecutive goals for a 3-1 DU lead at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter. Three different scorers struck for the Pioneers in the second period and Air Force was limited to just one goal and outshot 23-5 for the half.
The Falcons, however, remained within striking distance because three of their four shots on net got behind goalie Alex Ready, who had just one save in the half.