National Defender of the Year Sam Thacker Returning to Denver


Sam Thacker was the IWLCA National Defender of the Year in 2023.

Sam Thacker entered the summer unsure of her lacrosse future.

She didn’t join the Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse roster as a pro, at least leaving the door open for a return to college lacrosse. On Thursday, the picture cleared.

Thacker, the reigning IWLCA National Defender of the Year, will return for a fifth season at Denver, where she was the key weapon on the Pioneer’s No. 1 defense. Thacker and Denver reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time in program history, suffering their first and only loss of the year to the eventual national champion Northwestern Wildcats.

“As summer came to a close, it became clear to me that I wasn’t ready to be done playing lacrosse,” Thacker said. “There is no place I would rather play than as a Pioneer at Peter Barton Stadium. We have unfinished business at DU, and I’m thrilled to be re-joining my teammates in our pursuit of winning a national championship.”

Thacker led Denver with 53 caused turnovers in 2023 and ranked second on the team with 59 ground balls and third with 45 draw controls. The Lutherville, Md., native was one of six players in the country with at least 40 caused turnovers, 40 ground balls and 30 draw controls.
Thacker recorded at least one caused turnover in 20 of 23 games last season and picked up at least one ground ball in 21 games. She combined for 13 ground balls, 12 draw controls and seven caused turnovers in four NCAA tournament games.

Against North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals, Thacker registered three ground balls, three caused turnovers and one draw control. She forced a key turnover during a North Carolina free-position attempt in the closing minutes to seal the win. 

Having started 69 of 70 career games at Denver, Thacker ranks second all-time in program history with 164 caused turnovers, trailing only Kate Henrich’s 170 (2010-13). She is tied for fifth in program history in ground balls (157) and eighth in draw controls (143).


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