May 14, 2011

Big Red falls to No. 2 RIT in overtime

In March, the Denison men's swimming team won a national championship, essentially by a half inch, when the Big Red out touched Emory at the wall in the meet's final event. Today, the Denison men's lacrosse team took their best shot at undefeated and second-ranked RIT, but that half inch, which can be so cruel at times, failed to bounce in Denison's direction resulting in a 13-12 overtime loss from Rochester, N.Y.

With the score tied 12-12 halfway into the first sudden-victory overtime, Denison's Tanner Smith attempted a shot nearly identical to the one which sent Ohio Wesleyan packing in Wednesday's first round. Today, Smith's shot once again looked perfect coming off his stick, but this time it hit the right post of the goalie cage. One half inch more to the left and Denison is making their 12th NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in school history.

Instead, RIT won one of many furious ground ball battles and quickly advanced the ball into scoring territory. Less than 30 seconds after Smith's shot was turned away by iron, RIT's Kelso Davis scored the game winner from just outside the crease to lock up the dramatic 13-12 overtime win for the Tigers.

The loss ends Denison's 2011 season with a record of 11-4 while RIT moves on to the NCAA's round of eight with an unblemished record of 18-0.

Both teams struggled early adjusting to the tempo and the wet field conditions. RIT's home field advantage assisted them early on as they jumped out to a 4-2 lead after one quarter of play thanks to one extra-man goal and a fast break score by Davis.

In the second quarter the Tigers took a 5-2 lead thanks to Davis' third score of the game but Denison mounted a comeback after a man-up goal by Smith off a feed from Emmett Jones with 10:42 left. That goal would spark a streak of four-straight goals by DU which would give them a 6-5 lead with 6:04 left in the quarter. Three of those four goals came via quick-strike scores from Chapin Speidel, Davis Lukens and Porter McKay who gave the Tigers a taste of their own medicine with a fast break goal off a face-off win.

RIT would respond by scoring three of the next four goals to take an 8-7 lead into the second half. In the third quarter Lukens would start things off by bouncing a goal between the RIT goalies' legs, tying the game at 8-8. The Tigers rallied with two goals from Davis and Tyler Russell but the see-saw would turn in DU's favor once again. Immediately following Russell's goal, Big Red face-off specialist Corey Daff would win the face-off, scoop the ground ball and score his first career goal in a matter of seconds, giving the Big Red an instant shot of adrenalin. Three minutes later Jones would notch his second goal of the day off a pass from Colin Molloy to tie the game at 10-10 and that is how the score would remain heading to the final 15 minutes of play.

With just 5:57 to play in the contest, Denison took their largest lead of the game at 12-10 when Lukens scored his third goal of the afternoon. With RIT staggered the Big Red were searching for that one knock-out punch. RIT's Davis would respond again, this time with his fifth of six goals on the day, giving his squad a punchers chance with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter.

After a face-off win by RIT, Jordan Collins-Hart would tie the game for the sixth time with an open shot from seven yards out. With under a minute remaining in the game, RIT had the ball and was looking for the game-winner. Davis was behind the cage, looking to make a move. As he spun on the Denison defender he lost his footing and the ball squirted out of his stick. Denison's Nick Farrell snagged the ground ball with under 10 seconds left. He sent a long pass to Matt Verklin at midfield who found Jones for a great attempt that was turned away by Robert Tonnessen as the last second of the quarter ticked off the clock.

In overtime, Denison won the face-off thanks to a nifty ground ball pick-up by Smith and Kyle Brown had a solid shot attempt turned away by another clutch save from Tonnessen. DU regained possession and after a timeout, they drew up the play for Smith which came so very close to working.

RIT entered the contest as the nation's fifth highest scoring team and were held to nearly three goals under their season average by the Big Red. Denison's young defense of Tommy Harrison, Spencer Riehl, Austin Campbell and Farrell  forced the Tigers into an uncharacteristic 24 turnovers. Both teams battled hard for loose balls as RIT edged DU 45-42 in the ground ball category. Denison outshot their opponents 31-22 and both teams were 1-for-2 in extra-man situations.

Denison was led in scoring by Lukens' three goals and one assist. Molloy scored one goal and had two assists while Jones and Smith each posted one goal and one assist. In all, 10 different Denison players scored a goal while just four RIT players contributed the 13 goals for their squad.

Tonnessen finished with 11 saves in goal for RIT while Denison goalie Nick Petracca posted five saves for the Big Red. Smith paced DU with eight ground balls while McKay gave the RIT offense fits with his six ground balls and three caused turnovers.

RIT advances to the NCAA Quarterfinals where they will face Amherst College on Wednesday, May 18.