DU repeats as NCAC Tournament Champion

Three of the four seniors embrace after defeating Oberlin on Saturday 14-7 to capture their second-straight NCAC Tournament Championship.
Three of the four seniors embrace after defeating Oberlin on Saturday 14-7 to capture their second-straight NCAC Tournament Championship.

Saturday afternoon marked just the second time since 1999 that the No. 3 and 4 seeds in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament faced off for the right to hoist the NCAC Tournament trophy. In 2006, the fourth-seeded Big Red defeated Allegheny, in Granville, for the right to play in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Nine years later, Denison was in a similar situation as the No. 3 seed hosting the fourth-seeded Oberlin Yeowomen in the NCAC Tournament title game. With their home fans cheering them on at Piper Stadium, the Big Red captured their ninth NCAC Tournament Championship following a 14-7 win over Oberlin on Saturday afternoon in Granville.

With the victory, Denison secures its 17th NCAA Division III Tournament berth and its fourth in the last five seasons.

The two teams were scoreless through the opening seven minutes of play. The Big Red would get on the board first at 22:16 when sophomore Claire Ludlow fed freshman Claudia Rafi for her 27th goal of the season. The Yeowomen responded less than two minutes later when Grace Barlow's unassisted tally tied the contest at 1-1.

DU answered Barlow's goal with three straight to build a 4-1 lead. Sophomore Carol Allen broke the tie off an assist from Whitney Powel at 19:11. Just over a minute later, Allen facilitated a Lizzy Pellicane score to increase the Denison lead. The surge was capped off with a Ludlow goal at 13:18.

Oberlin's Marissa Maxfield interrupted the run with an unassisted tally at 9:35, but the high-powered Big Red offense closed out the final nine minutes by scoring four of the next five goals which resulted in an 8-3 Denison lead at the break. Allen, Ludlow and senior Erin Keller all had unassisted tallies, while freshman Halle Walsh found sophomore Isabel Tumminello for her ninth goal of the year with 2:49 remaining in the period. Barlow netted the Yeowomen's final goal of the first with 3:38 on the clock.

In the second half, Oberlin started to claw back into the game by scoring three of the first four goals of the period, shrinking the deficit to 9-6. However with seven minutes to play, Denison secured the victory by scoring four times over the span of 3:19. Rafi picked up her second goal of the contest to make it a four-score affair, while Allen found junior Kelsey Wright for back-to-back goals. Powel fed Ludlow for the last goal of run with 3:47 on the Piper Stadium clock. The sophomore's second goal of the game gave DU its largest lead of the contest at 13-6. Sydney Garvis and Allen traded off goals inside the final 90 seconds, setting the final score at 14-7.

The Big Red outshot the Yeowomen 33-18 and almost doubled OC in the draw control department (15-8). Denison successfully cleared 19 of their 20 opportunities, while Oberlin was 20-for-28 in clear attempts. DU also held a 22-20 edge in ground balls.

Allen played a part in half of Denison's goals in the championship game. The junior attack scored four times and dished out three helpers, while Ludlow added three goals and one assist.  Wright and Rafi each netted two scores, while Powel handed out two assists and recorded a team-best five draw controls. Senior Melissa Weinsz led DU with four ground balls and three caused turnovers, while Rafi also forced two takeaways. Powel and Isabel Swicklik chipped in three ground balls each. Freshman goalie Becca Jones improved to 7-0 on the year after making eight saves in net.

Garvis, Maxfield and Barlow each scored twice, while Morgan Daruwala notched Oberlin's other goal. Maxfield also paced the Yeowomen with five ground balls and three draw controls. Kate Hanick finished the game with five caused turnovers and three ground balls. OC goalie Alexa L'Insalata turned aside 11 DU shots in the loss.

The Big Red had four athletes named to the All-Tournament team as Jones, Wright, Weinsz and Powel were all recognized during the postgame awards ceremony.

Denison (11-6) will await Sunday night's NCAA Tournament selection show to learn their opponent in Wednesday's first round game. The selection show will air live on NCAA.com at 9:30 p.m.