DENVER (denverpioneers.com) – The No. 6 seed [4/3] University of Denver men's soccer program earned its first NCAA Tournament win since 1970 with a 3-0 victory over UNLV in the NCAA Second Round on Sunday evening at CIBER Field at the University of Denver Soccer Stadium.
The Pioneers (18-0-3) advance to play Washington in the NCAA Round of 16 on Saturday or Sunday at CIBER Field. Kickoff date and time will be announced later Sunday night. Tickets for Denver's Round of 16 game will go on sale Tuesday at 9 a.m. MT.
"The last year has been a year of preparation for this moment," head coach Jamie Franks said. "We felt like we were on the wrong side of the game last year. Fast forward to now and we are 21 games unbeaten, and we feel great about the way we played tonight in that moment. The second half was about sticking to the game plan, and it was just one of those games that it didn't matter how it went in, but we felt it was going to go in. I would always take my guys in knockout soccer. Their resiliency, fight and togetherness makes them a special group."
Denver's two centerbacks finished set pieces to bookend an Alex Underwood strike from 25 yards for the Pioneers scoring on Sunday. The Crimson and Gold defense turned in their 13th cleansheet of the season, allowing just five shots and two on target. Sunday night's win also improves Denver's record to 39-1-2 at home in its last 42 matches.
DU controlled possession against UNLV (10-12-2) in the opening 45 minutes, but despite a 9-2 shot advantage and taking the only two corner kicks of the first half, the two teams went to the lockers scoreless.
Redshirt-sophomore Scott DeVoss found the breakthrough in the 56th minute on a six-yard header off a corner kick from Centennial neighbor and redshirt-senior Karsten Hanlin. The goal for the centerback is his second of the season while Hanlin recorded career assist number 14 to move into a tie for seventh in Denver's Division I history in assists and seventh in points (42).
Underwood's 25-yard strike came in the 70th minute to double the Pioneers advantage off an assist from senior Sam Hamilton. Hamilton deflected a clearances off a Hanlin ball into the UNLV back four to the feet of Underwood who ripped his strike into the back of the net for his fifth of the season. The DU senior's assist on Sunday is a team-high ninth of the campaign, good for a tie for third in Denver's Division I single-season record book.
Junior centerback Kortne Ford closed things out in the 81st minute on a header off an Underwood free kick. Ford's goal is the fourth of the campaign and the fourth of the Colorado Rapids' DA product's career. Underwood's assist is the 11th in three seasons for the DU junior.
Following Maryland's loss in the second round on Sunday afternoon, the Pioneers are the last unbeaten team in the country for the second-consecutive season.
Denver finished with an 18-5 advantage in shots and took all six corner kicks on Saturday night. DU's three goals on Sunday matches the Pioneers' combined total in their previous seven NCAA Tournament games (all three goals in 1970 win over San Jose State and loss at UCLA).
ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Celebrating its 35th season of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of over 120,000 at nine institutions, including four located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Fort Wayne (Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne), IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis), North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced eight NCAA Champions along with over 80 Academic All-Americans, 75 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.org website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague and watch the weekly "Inside The Summit League" show at www.thesummitleague.org/itsl.