DENVER — The undefeated Denver Pioneers women's lacrosse team is No. 1 -- in at least one category.
Denver's defense is ranked No. 1 overall in the entire country, holding teams to only 128 goals over 22 games, for an average of 5.82 per game. They're also ranked second in caused turnovers with 280, an average of 12.73 per game.
"Liza's treated defense as something that's just as important as offense, which I don't think is always the case in lacrosse," Sam Thacker, the IWLCA National Co-Defensive Player of the Year, said.
There's no question that defense wins championships, but the real puzzle: What's the deal with the pink?
"Hot Pink! No. 1 defense, right?" a fan shouted during the first round of the NCAA tournament at Peter Barton Stadium, while wearing a pink hat that read 'PIOS.'
DU hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament at its home stadium -- and from the looks of the sold out stands -- you'd think pink was one of the official school colors.
"Ha! I love it," defender Trinity McPherson said. "It's so funny because when I first got here, I was like 'What is that? What is everyone talking about?' and they were like, 'No, our defense is called 'Hot Pink!'"
Hot Pink is more than a name, it's an identity for the back eight, that has now grown even larger.
"'Hot Pink' is a fun, aggressive, gritty style of 'D', and I think that's what I really want our team known as in general, as somebody that you don't want to play against, that when you see us coming on the docket, you think, 'ugh, it's Denver!'" head coach Liza Kelly said.
The goal for 'Hot Pink?' Turn that gritty play on defense into greasy goals on offense.
"It's kind of like, maybe that identity and that name started with the defense, but it's definitely carried over into the whole team's mentality," Thacker said. "Obviously with the crowd and everyone going wild, when the ball does go into the back of the net, there's nothing better than that feeling and especially when it comes from a whole play put together from the 'D' going down the field."
Whether it's crimson, gold, or...pink...the Pios are perfectly representing their brand when they step out onto the field.
"I think hot pink is seen as such a girly, soft, whatever, and I think this team and Liza, we're tough as nails," McPherson said.
The fifth-seeded Denver women's lacrosse team faces off with the top-seeded Northwestern Wildcats at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Friday at 1pm MT.
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