The DU women’s lacrosse team is undefeated and playing in the NCAA Semifinals for the first time ever

They take the field against Northwestern Friday at 1 p.m. MT.
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The University of Denver’s Bryn McCaughey blocks University at Albany’s Sarah Falk during a game in Denver on May 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

On a rainy Sunday two weeks ago, the stands at the women's lacrosse game at University of Denver were packed full of parents, students and fans. People were decked out in bright pink "Pios" hats and apparel -- a reference to DU's "hot pink" defense, one of the best in the country. Everyone in the stands sat on the edge of their seats in the win-or-go-home game for a team on a historic undefeated run.

In that final home game of the season, the Pios beat the University of Albany, eight to six. Later that week, the team came from behind to beat the University of North Carolina in the NCAA Quarterfinals, remaining undefeated and punching their ticket to the national semifinals for the first time ever.

Now, DU will play No. 1 Northwestern on Friday for a spot in the final.

"This is a first for the program, [we're] the first team west of the Mississippi to make it to a Final Four in the sport of women's lacrosse, and they've earned that," said head coach Liza Kelly in an interview with Colorado Matters Wednesday.

Kids watch as the University of Denver's women's lacrosse team plays the University at Albany on May 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Kelly began coaching at DU in 2007, and she's watched the sport's profile in Denver grow since then.

Like the DU gymnastics team, Kelly said she has seen the team's fanbase - and that of women's college sports more broadly - grow in recent years. This season was the first year DU charged admission for women's lacrosse games, a sign of genuine demand.

"That's something that I've been pushing for for 17 years. I'm a little miffed that it took that long to do it, but I keep telling everybody, 'If you build it, they will come,'" Kelly said. "We've had really packed stands, so that's been awesome to see."

Andrea Collignon and her husband both played basketball at DU back when they were students. Now, their daughter Sydney Collignon is a senior on the DU lacrosse team. Andrea Collignon said that when she was a student, men's teams always brought out some sort of crowd, while the women's teams struggled to find traction.

"I am so excited to see this team get the recognition that they deserve," she said. "I'm just so happy that people are truly recognizing women, what they can do to the sport and how far they can take it, and I'm just happy for them to get that recognition. They deserve it."

Sydney Collignon's grandmother, Carol Suman, also lives in Denver, and made it to every home game this season.

"They have had a fantastic season. They have played well. They're a great team, and they are a bunch of great women," she said. "I am so proud."

Andrea Collignon cheers on her daughter, Sydney Collignon, at a home game for University of Denver womens lacrosse. May 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Pios play Northwestern in the Final Four Friday at 1 p.m. MT.

It's the DU women's first ever appearance in the national semifinals, against No. 1 seed Northwestern. If DU wins, they will play in the final against either No. 2 Syracuse or No. 3 Boston College on Sunday at 10 a.m. MT.

Friday's game will be televised live on ESPNU and available for streaming through ESPN's apps. For people tuning in to the sport for the first time, Kelly compared watching women's lacrosse to watching basketball, with similar offensive and defensive strategies, over 100 yards with two goalies at either end.

While the Pios are 0-5 in all time appearances against Northwestern dating back to 2004, Kelly isn't worried.

"They're good enough to go out and beat anybody," she said. "It's our job just to put them in position to do so and have the right game plan and have them properly motivated and ready to go."

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