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Denver advances in WCLA

Three of Four Spots Secured for WCLA Division II Semifinals

May 10, 2023
Paul Ohanian
Mike Caudill

VIRGINIA BEACH — There wasn’t much drama on the first day of Division II play at the USA Lacrosse WCLA Tournament, with the top three seeds — No. 1 Utah Valley, No. 2 New Hampshire and No. 3 Vermont — all clinching berths into the national semifinals with easy victories in pool play games.

Many of the eight Division II games played Wednesday yielded lopsided results, but there were two nail biters included in the mix, and both involved No. 4 seed Providence. The Friars opened with a morning matchup against No. 5 Denver Club and promptly jumped ahead of the Pioneers with a 5-0 first quarter lead.

Denver still trailed 10-5 at halftime, but it then staged its best comeback of the season for a 13-12 victory. The team’s All-American goalie Anabelle Johnson had a plausible explanation for Denver’s slow start.

“We had a 7 a.m. wake-up call for our morning game, but our bodies are still on Rocky Mountain time, which means it was only 5 a.m.,” she said. “We weren’t as energetic at the start, but we were better once we got into our groove.”

Freshman Emma Flynn and sophomore Sarah Brinkman had three goals apiece to lead Denver, with five of their six combined goals coming in the second half. Brinkman’s third goal, with 4:44 left, gave the Pioneers their first lead of the day and proved to be the game-winner.

Providence had three shots against Johnson on its next possession in an effort to tie it, but two sailed wide and Johnson corralled the third one for her 12th save of the game. Denver re-gained possession with 2:49 remaining and was able to effectively run out the clock while nursing its one-goal lead.

“I always play my best in a tense game,” Johnson said. “Something just clicks for me.”

Looking to rebound from the loss, Providence faced No. 9 Air Force in the afternoon session and once again found itself in a nip-and-tuck battle. Air Force led 3-0 early before Providence rallied for a 6-5 halftime lead. The second half featured seven ties, including 12-12 at the end of regulation. Air Force’s Taylor McManus then scored the game-winner 1:28 into the extra session to ignite the Falcons’ celebration.

Denver and Air Force meet on Thursday morning with the winner claiming the final spot in the Division II semifinals. Meanwhile, the top three seeds all advanced to the semis with relative ease.

Top-seed Utah Valley scored a combined 42 goals in its two victories over No. 8 Santa Barbara City, 16-7, and No. 12 Pacific Lutheran, 26-2. The Wolverines are back in the semifinals for the second straight year.

New Hampshire won its pod with victories over No. 7 Boise State, 13-9, and No. 11 Portland State, 22-4. Lexi Knapton and Mackenzie Cretsinger paced UNH in its opening win with three goals each, while freshman Brooke Ward recorded a team-high four goals against PSU.

Vermont, last year’s national runner-up, returned to the semifinals with wins over No. 6 CSU San Marcos, 14-5, and No. 10 Portland, 21-1. Fifteen different players scored for the Catamounts in the win over Portland, paced by four goals from junior May Cassidy.

Thursday’s Division I and II semifinal games will be available via free video streaming. Links to the streams can be accessed on the USA Lacrosse’s YouTube channel.

DJO and Gatorade serve as official event sponsors for the 2023 USA Lacrosse WCLA Championships.


4 p.m. – Utah Valley (16-1) vs. Denver Club (11-3) or Air Force (3-5)
7 p.m. – New Hampshire (12-2-1) vs. Vermont (9-2-1)