No. 5 Denison and No. 1 Salisbury will play on Sunday (May 21) at 1 p.m. for the right to play in the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship game. Denison defeated Lynchburg, 18-9 in the quarterfinals to qualify for Sunday's semifinal matchup. The top-ranked Sea Gulls defeated No. 9 Cabrini, 17-5 in their quarterfinal game.
This is Denison's third NCAA semifinal appearance. The previous two appearances came in 1999 and 2001. In 1999, the Big Red lost to Salisbury in the semifinals, 14-7. In 2001, Denison defeated the Sea Gulls, 11-6 in the quarterfinals before falling to Gettysburg, 13-7 in the semifinal round. Denison has never reached a Division III championship game.
Familiar Foes: Denison and Salisbury are no strangers when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. This is the seventh time the two squads have met in the postseason. In 37 NCAA Tournament games for Denison, the only team they have played more than Salisbury (6 times) is Ohio Wesleyan (9 times). DU is 1-5 in six previous meetings against Salisbury in the NCAA Tournament. The lone win came in the 1999 quarterfinal round. This is the third time in the last four years DU and Salisbury have met in the NCAA postseason.
The Rematch: Last year, Denison trailed Salisbury 9-7 entering the fourth quarter but stormed back with three late goals to tie the game at 10-10. Blair Farinholt's tally with 24 seconds in regulation forced overtime. In OT, Salisbury won the opening draw and 37 seconds later, Thomas Cirillo buried the game winner for the Gulls. Salisbury went on to defeat Gettysburg (14-6) and Tufts (14-13) to win the 2016 national championship.
The Coaches: Denison head coach Mike Caravana is in his 24th year at Denison. He is the program's all-time leader in wins at 274-88 (.757). Since returning to Denison in 2009, Caravana has gone 129-23 (.849) in nine seasons. Salisbury is led by Jim Berkman who is in his 29th year at Salisbury. He earned win No. 500 at Salisbury in Wednesday's quarterfinal victory over Cabrini. His career record, including one season as the head coach at SUNY-Potsdam, is 509-57 (.899). Salisbury has won 11 national championships and has advanced to 15 national championship games under Berkman.
POY Candidates Clash: The top two candidates for Division III Player of the Year will go head to head in Denison's Liam Rooney and Salisbury's Nathan Blondino. Rooney leads the nation in assists with 85 and is second in points with 122. Blondino leads Division III with 129 points (59 goals, 70 assists). Rooney needs seven assists to tie the D-III record for assists in a season. Both have been red-hot heading into Sunday's matchup. Blondino has totaled 18 points in his last two games and Rooney has piled up 17 points.
Ranking Rooney: There are 24 former Denison men's lacrosse players in Denison's Varsity D Association Hall of Fame. With his career nearly complete, it is clear that based on numbers alone, Rooney ranks among the greatest to have ever worn a Big Red uniform. This season, Rooney became Denison's career leader in assists (159) and points (278) and is fifth in goals with 119. Rooney was the NCAC Offensive Player of the Year and he has reached double-digits in points on three separate occasions this season, tallying 11 points against Nazareth, 11 against Illinois Wesleyan and 10 against Wabash.
Denison and Salisbury in the NCAA Tournament: The Big Red's very first appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 1982 and their opponent was Salisbury in the quarterfinals. They wouldn't meet again until 1999 in the semifinals. Salisbury jumped out to a 6-0 lead early en route to a 14-7 win. Denison got revenge in the 2001 NCAA quarterfinals with an 11-6 win at Sea Gull Stadium powered by hat tricks from Kip Hale and Jon Staunton. In 2006, top-ranked Salisbury defeated DU 13-5 in the second round. That leads to more recent history. In 2014, the Sea Gulls ended Denison's 19-game winning streak with a 15-5 win and last year, it took overtime for Salisbury to shatter Denison's dreams of a national championship.
Seniors Stepping Up: Six-foot-four senior Alex Paulus was inserted into the starting lineup after an injury to sophomore midfielder Owen Armstrong in the second round game versus Carthage. Paulus scored three goals on four shot attempts against Lynchburg. In 57 games played he has scored 48 goals. Fellow senior Jamie McCahan has also been a calming force in the midfield with his increased playing time. He has a goal and an assist in three tournament games and plenty of experience, to boot. He has started 32 of 62 games in his career at DU.
Broken Record: The 2017 Denison men's lacrosse has cemented their names across nearly every facet of the record books. They have set team and conference records for goals in a season (347). Liam Rooney broke the team record for career points (278) and assists (159) in addition to single-season assists (85) and points (122). Spencer Butler broke the single-season record for goals (64) and Will Donohue is still chasing with 60 goals this season. Butler set a new conference record with 11 goals against Illinois Wesleyan. That also shattered the previous NCAA Tournament record for goals in a game (8).
DeCLAMP: Sophomore FOGO Henry DeCamp has been brilliant in his first season at Denison. A transfer from Connecticut College, DeCamp has won 251-of-390 draws taken in 2017 for a .644 win percentage. In five postseason games (NCAC and NCAA Tournaments combined), DeCamp is 91-of-127 (.717) with 49 ground balls. He was named the MVP of the NCAC Tournament and was the conference's Specialist of the Year.
You're So EMO: Denison's extra-man unit leads the nation with a .662 conversion percentage. DU is outscoring the opposition 47-20 in man-up. Unit specialist Brooks Davy and Will Donohue lead the team with 13 extra-man goals, apiece. In the three NCAA Tournament games, Denison is 10-of-15 (.667).
The Butler Did It: Spencer Butler was named the NCAC Newcomer of the Year and shortly went down in history with his 11-goal game against Illinois Wesleyan. Not only was it the most goals ever scored in a NCAA Tournament game, it also broke a 27-year old varsity record of 10 goals in a game set by Chris Wolfington in 1990.
Dropping Dimes: Liam Rooney's 85 assists are the third-most in a season in D-III history. First and second places are occupied by Will Van Dorn of Kean. He had 92 assists in 1999 and 91 in 1998. His 159 career assists rank him 17th in D-III history.
Long Stick Many: Denison's three-headed freshman LSM rotation of Richie Bartozzi, Chris Broderick and Sam Dyson has been terrorizing opposing offenses. With the ability to stay fresh and go full-speed, the trio has combined for 16 ground balls and four caused turnovers in three tournament games. As one of DU's primary wings when facing off, Broderick ranks fifth on the team with 40 ground balls.
Columbus Connection: Junior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Happ and first-year middie Wills Hutras are repping the local Columbus, Ohio area lacrosse scene. Happ is a two-time all-conference honoree and Hutras has started 17 of 19 games as a rookie.
Still Rockin' the Nation: Denison has become well known for their nationwide reach and the Big Red's 46-man roster features players from 15 different states not including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Three Amigos: Denison's close defense trio of Liam Burman, Teddy Sawyer and Ben Duhoski have been in the starting lineup in 35 of the 39 total games over the last two seasons. That's allowed them to function together like a fine Swiss watch. Sawyer leads the team in caused turnovers (38) and is second in ground balls (50). Duhoski has 49 ground balls and 34 CTs while Burman follows with 11 caused turnovers and 24 ground balls. The Denison defense is allowing only 6.81 goals per game.
Unbeaten Streak: First-year goalie Stephen Paras has started every game since the 2017 season-opening loss to Washington and Lee and has posted a spotless 18-0 record between the pipes. He boasts a .516 save percentage and a 6.48 GAA in 861 minutes played.
A Glimpse at the Gulls: Salisbury enters today's game ranked No. 1 in the USLIA Division III Coaches poll. At 20-1, they bring a five-game winning streak into Sunday's semifinal. Similar to the Big Red, their attack features three players with at least 59 goals. Nathan Blondino has 59 goals and 70 assists while Nick Garbarino has 62 goals and Carson Kalama leads the squad with 65 goals. Duncan Campbell is winning 59 percent of his faceoffs and goalie Colin Reymann has a .567 save percentage and a 6.10 GAA in 21 starts. Reyman had nine saves against Denison in last year's quarterfinal and Kalama tied the team-lead with two goals.
Waxing Poetic: Sophomore midfielder Jake Waxter notched a hat trick in last year's game against Salisbury. He leads DU's middies in scoring with 28 goals and 14 assists. He was named to the All-NCAC first-team for the first time in his career.
Where There's Will, There's a Way: Senior attackman Will Donohue has been one of the most consistent scorers in the nation in 2017. He has scored at least one goal in every game but two and has had nine games with four goals or more. His season-high (6) came in NCAC wins over Wittenberg and Kenyon. He is tied for eighth in career goals scored at Denison with 115.
A Trip to the 'Ship is on the Line: The winner of today's NCAA Semifinal will advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship game on Sunday, May 28 at 5 p.m. The game will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.