Top-seeded Denison will square off against second-seeded Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday, under the lights at Piper Stadium in the inaugural North Coast Athletic Conference men's lacrosse tournament championship. Face-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The longtime rivals are set to add a new chapter to its storied rivalry by playing for the conference's first automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. In previous seasons, Denison and Ohio Wesleyan were at-large selections as a part of NCAA Pool B. This year, with the addition of men's lacrosse teams at Hiram and DePauw, the NCAC had the required amount of teams to award an AQ. The result is the much anticipated rematch between the Big Red and Battling Bishops.
Last Wednesday the two teams met in Delaware, Ohio with the Big Red earning an 11-8 victory to secure the program's 14th conference championship. Denison got an outstanding performance from Chip Phillips. The junior won 17-of-20 face-off attempts and helped assure that DU controlled possession throughout the contest. Eddie Vita and Chapin Speidel each scored three goals and had one assist while Teddy Powell added two goals and one assist.
That marked Denison's eighth-straight win over Ohio Wesleyan. Since 2005 the Big Red has won 11 of 12 and now leads the all-time series 47-42-1. OWU's last win in Granville came on March 27, 2004 at Barclay-Thomsen Field. That day the Battling Bishops scored three unanswered goals over the final 10 minutes of play to knock off the Big Red, 7-6.
Ohio Wesleyan checks into to Saturday's title game with a 12-5 record. They are led in scoring by Colin Short (20 goals, 32 assists) and Casey Helms (32 goals, 16 assists). Goalie Ryan McMahon boasts a .574 save percentage while playing 80 percent of the team's minutes this season. Face-off specialist Sam Gioseffi is winning 60 percent at X and he leads the team with 99 ground balls.
Denison, who is ranked 13th in the latest USILA Division III Top-20 Coaches Poll, boasts a balanced scoring attack led by Vita (27 goals, 18 assists) and Speidel (25 goals, 8 assists). They have also done it with defense. Opponents are averaging only 4.88 goals per game against the Big Red which is tops in Division III. First-year goalie Chris Thomas has a .527 save percentage to go along with 77 saves in 764 minutes of action. For his efforts against Ohio Wesleyan and Hiram, Phillips was named the NCAC Player of the Week. He is winning face-off's at a .625 clip this season.
Denison advanced to Saturday's championship game by defeating No. 4 seed Kenyon, 8-2 on Tuesday. Ohio Wesleyan knocked off No. 3 seed, Wooster, 13-9.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children (18 and under). All NCAC students are admitted free of charge with a valid ID. Additionally, the first 100 Denison faculty/staff members with a valid ID will also be admitted for free.
If you can't be at the game, watch the Denison Sports Network's live video coverage of the game on the web. Andrew Luftglass '13 will be handling play-by-play while color commentary will be covered by former Denison assistant coach, Adam Stewart '03.