GRANVILLE, Ohio — The Wittenberg Tigers took their biggest step yet toward the previously unthinkable — an outright North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship and an undefeated regular season — after claiming a 9-8 road victory over Denison.
It was the second straight year that the Tigers beat Denison by a 9-8 margin. In 2010, the overtime home victory propelled Wittenberg to a share of the conference title with Ohio Wesleyan and an at-large berth into the program's first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament. This year, the victory moved the 15th-ranked Tigers to a program-best 10-0 with four games remaining. Denison, ranked ninth nationally, dropped to 8-2 overall. More importantly, Wittenberg is now 3-0 in the NCAC, compared to 3-1 for the Big Red.
Denison outshot Wittenberg 37-32 in the game, including a 23-15 margin in the first half as the Big Red staked themselves to a 5-3 lead. The turning point came in a dominating third quarter for the Tigers as they scored five of the period's six goals to take their first lead, 7-6, into the final 15 minutes. Both teams scored twice in the fourth quarter, but the Tiger defense made the lead stand up behind senior goalkeeper Mark DeOliveira (East Hanover, NJ/East Hanover), who made six of his 18 saves in the final 15 minutes.
Senior Chris Gipson (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) led both teams offensively with three goals, while senior Brady Christensen (Medina, Ohio/Medina) and sophomore Alex Previte (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman) contributed two scores apiece. Senior Matt Lord (Pickerington, Ohio/North) added one goal and two assists, giving him an even 100 goals for his illustrious collegiate career, three short of the school record. Lord leads the Tigers with 38 total points in 2011, giving him 139 for his career, four short of Billy Habermeyer for second place on the school's career points list.
Defensively, seniors Adam Ansel (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) and Charles Harreys (Essex, Conn./Valley Regional) led the field players with three ground balls apiece. DeOliveira capped his tremendous all-around performance with six ground balls to lead the Tigers overall.
Wittenberg goes for a share of a second straight NCAC crown at Wooster on Friday, April 22, and then returns home to face Ohio Wesleyan on April 27. The Tigers have not beaten the Battling Bishops since re-forming as a varsity program in 1983.