CARLISLE, Pa. — The Wittenberg Tigers have made it a habit to starting slow but finishing strong. Against sixth-ranked Dickinson in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, another sluggish opening cost the Tigers their season in what turned out to be an 11-4 loss.
Wittenberg, ranked No. 15 nationally after sharing the top spot in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and winning the first NCAA Division III Tournament game in program history over Adrian on Wednesday, bowed out with a 14-2 record. The program's previous high win total for a season was 10. Dickson advanced to square off with perennial national title contender Salisbury in the national quarterfinals with a record of 17-1.
The Red Devils scored the first five goals of the game before Tiger senior Chris Gipson (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) got Wittenberg on the board with an unassisted score with 13:09 left in the second quarter. Five minutes later, senior Matt Lord (Pickerington, Ohio/North) added a goal, but Dickinson re-gained the momentum with a pair of goals to take a five-goal advantage into the intermission.
The Red Devils pulled away in the third quarter, holding the Tigers scoreless while tacking on two more scores. The two teams then split four goals in the final frame to account for the game's final score.
The final team statistics illustrate just how even the game really was, despite the seven-goal difference on the scoreboard. Dickinson held a 35-32 advantage in shots and a 35-33 edge in ground balls, while the Tigers committed two more turnovers in the game. The biggest discrepancy was in goalkeeper saves as Dickinson's Greg Hanley came up with at least three in each period to finish with 15 for the game, while senior Mark DeOliveira (East Hanover, NJ/East Hanover) was credited with 11.
DeOliveira led the Tigers with six ground balls in the game, while senior Danny Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hill) added five to go along with two caused turnovers. Junior Elliot Avis (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids) and senior Ryan Spain (Concord, NH/Bishop Brady) finished with three ground balls apiece, and Spain added two caused turnovers to share the team lead in that category. Avis won 10 of the 18 face-offs in the game.
The game was the last in Red & White for 11 seniors, a bittersweet ending to phenomenal careers that included the first two NCAC championships and NCAA Division III berths in the program's history. Since they missed Wittenberg's Commencement Exercises, a special ceremony will take place with President Mark H. Erickson on campus on Sunday.