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Big Red captures NCAC title in win over Kenyon

Ali Gakenheimer  |  Photo by Jace Delgado
Ali Gakenheimer | Photo by Jace Delgado

GRANVILLE, Ohio--  Denison captured the program's 10th North Coast Athletic Conference championship on Saturday after a 1-0 victory over Kenyon College at Piper Stadium.  This is the first NCAC championship for the Big Red in field hockey since 2013. The win also assures Denison the No. 1 seed in next week's NCAC Tournament.

DU checked into the match riding a 12-game winning streak and in the first half, they asserted themselves as the aggressor.  The Big Red outshot Kenyon 7-1 and came close to putting the first goal on the board in the 28th minute when KC goalie Sarah Speroff came out to challenge Charlotte Godfrey on a breakaway attempt.  Godfrey got around Speroff but Molly Keen was there for the defensive save.

Four minutes later, Godfrey got free once again but Speroff made a stellar sliding kick-save that sent the two squads into the halftime intermission deadlocked at 0-0.

In the 44th minute, DU broke through when Ali Gakenheimer punched in a pass from Lucy Pearsall off a penalty corner attempt to put Denison in front, 1-0.

Even after the go-ahead goal, the Big Red kept the pressure on as Charlotte Happel and Godfrey both put shots on goal that were turned away by Speroff. 

With less than four minutes to play, Kenyon took possession and advanced into Denison's third.  Playing with a one-player advantage after a yellow card was issued to Gakenheimer, the Ladies drew a penalty corner attempt.  After the insertion by Kelsey Trulik, Shannon Hart fired a shot that was blocked by the Denison defense.  That was the final shot attempt by Kenyon as DU successfully ran out the clock for the victory.

Kerry Lawler posted two saves in goal for Denison.  Her counterpart, Speroff, ended with five saves.  DU outshot Kenyon 13-5 and won the penalty corner battle, 9-3. 

With the win, Denison (15-3, 12-2) matched the program record for consecutive victories at 13.  That feat was previously accomplished in 2013 and 1980. Kenyon also ends the season at 15-3 and 12-2 in the NCAC.  The two squads are co-champions but Denison will be the top-seed based on tiebreakers.  The Big Red will host No. 4 seed, DePauw in the semifinals of the NCAC Tournament on Wednesday, November 1 at 3 p.m. inside Piper Stadium.

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