Denison tops Tigers to win NCAC Tourney title
Trailing 12-7 with 22 minutes to play, Denison turned on the jets, the afterburners and the Nitrogen Oxide, scoring the final nine goals of the game to capture the program's eighth North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Championship, 16-12, over top-seeded Wittenberg in Springfield, Ohio.
With the win, Denison secures the program's 16th NCAA Division III Tournament berth.
After both teams played the first half to a 6-6, tie, things began to go south for the Big Red early on in the second half. Carrie Kubasta started things off with a free position goal, two and a half minutes into the period.
Wittenberg's leading scorer this season, Logan Warye, netted her first goal of the game and her 65th of the season one minute later giving Wittenberg an 8-6 lead. Back-to-back 8-meter attempts by the Tigers inside of a minute would result in a sudden four-goal lead for the home team.
Warye would comeback with two more goals within a one minute time frame to put her squad up 12-7 with 22 minutes to go.
Wittenberg's quick strike ability was on full display in the second half as they scored seven goals in only five minutes of elapsed time.
Somehow, as the clock reached the 20-minute mark, the momentum of the game made a colossal turn. Denison's Claire Ludlow began the charge with two-straight free position goals. Ludlow's second goal came with 12:47 to play. Carol Allen would come back 31 seconds later with her 35th goal of the season off a pass from Molly Chapman.
That's when the comeback thoughts on the Denison sideline became a reality. Trailing 12-10, Denison continued to dominate possession, and Erin Keller would charge the cage and score her 27th goal of the season, cutting the Wittenberg lead to one.
DU would complete its comeback when Allen scored with 7:17 to play off a pass from Elsie Humes. Just over a minute later, Chapman would fire in the eventual game-winning goal with 5:57 to play. To aid the situation, Wittenberg's Becca Joseph and Warye were flagged with yellow cards within a six-second span with just over five minutes to play. That would give Denison a two-player advantage for three of the final five minutes of play.
Over that stretch, the Big Red would go on to tack on three more goals, sucking any and all drama out of the air at Edwards-Maurer Field.
As the clock struck zero, first-year head coach Amanda Daniels and her staff embraced as her team ran on to the field to celebrate the program's most recent NCAA Tournament berth and conference tourney championship.
The Big Red caused 17 of Wittenberg's 24 turnovers and sophomore Laura Van Horn came up with 10 saves in the game. DU was 3-for-4 on 8-meter attempts while the Tigers went 5-for-11. The two teams each attempted 28 shots, while the Big Red held a convincing 33-21 advantage in ground balls.
Ludlow paced Denison with four goals, while Chapman added three goals and a team-high four assists. Allen notched three goals, while Humes posted two goals and one assist. Whitney Powel ended with nine draw controls, seven ground balls, and four caused turnovers. Rachel Pregel scooped up five ground balls and led the way with four caused turnovers.
Wittenberg got three goals and one assist from Warye but Denison's Pregel gave her fits defensively. The All-American candidate committed a team-high seven turnovers and the majority were caused by the pesky, Pregel.
Denison landed four on the All-Tournament team as Powel, Pregel, Chapman, and Ludlow were all recognized in the postgame awards ceremony.
The Big Red will await Sunday night's NCAA Tournament selection show to learn their opponent in Wednesday's first round. The selection show will air live on NCAA.COM at 9:30 p.m.