May 15, 2010

By Jim Furlong
Special to

STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- Rick Sowell enjoyed gaining the biggest victory of his four-year career leading Stony Brook men's lacrosse program on Saturday.

"Wow," said Sowell after the Seawolves knocked off Denver, 9-7, in an NCAA Division I men's lacrosse first-round game. "It was pretty much what we thought it would be, a grind-out battle, nip and tuck. That was a tough battle against a Hall of Fame coach, arguably the best coach in our game.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. It is mind boggling. . . . For us to be one of the top eight teams (in the country)."

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: Saturday's result ended a tremendous first season for Denver coach Bill Tierney, who chose to make a huge personal change last year. He decided to pursue a Rocky Mountain High.

"How many people 58 years old get a fresh start," said Tierney.

After building and directing a perennial national contender at Princeton - winning six NCAA Division I championships and appearing in 10 Final Fours during his quarter century commanding the Tigers - Tierney relocated more than 1,500 miles to the mountain West to take charge at the University of Denver.

His first season in Colorado has proven a big success. The Pioneers carried a school-record nine-game winning streak into Saturday's NCAA at Stony Brook.

Two prolific sophomore attackmen, Alex Demonpoulos and Mark Matthews, combined for more than 70 goals and helped their team earn the ECAC title and spark its quest for its first NCAA victory.

Tierney said he liked only one fact concerning his team's season-ending loss.

"There will be a media frenzy next week" when Virginia visits Stony Brook for the NCAA quarterfinals.

RECORD SETTING SEAWOLVES: Stony Brook also had a record-setting season. Sowell, in his fourth season, has created steady progress and dominated the American East Conference this spring. The Seawolves have the program's best record (13-3) in 20 years and craved the first NCAA victory in school history.

Two Canadian sharpshooters, junior midfielder Kevin Crowley and junior Jordan McBride, traveled from British Columbia to make a huge impact. Crowley, the 2010 America East men's player of the year, is a finalist for college lacrosse's top individual honor and ranked second in the country with 71 points (46 goals). McBride, 48 goals this season, already ranked as Stony Brook's career goal leader (134).

QUARTERFINAL HOST: Stony Brook and Princeton will each host a quarterfinal next week. Stony Brook will play No. 1-ranked Virginia, an 18-4 winner against St. Mary's, in one semi while Cornell will play Sunday's Army-Syracuse winner. At Princeton, Duke will play Sunday's Delaware-North Carolina winner while the host Tigers must beat Notre Dame on Sunday to play Maryland in a quarterfinal. Winners will advance to the Final Four in Baltimore, May 29-31.

MISCELLANY: Denver was on nine-game winning streak entering the game while Stony Brook extended its winning to streak to nine with the win. ... Stony Brook is only the second America East team to host a first-round playoff game. The first was in 2007, when Albany played host to Loyola. ... Stony Brook is making its second post-season appearance. Denver has been in four tournaments.