SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - With 22 minutes left, everything pointed toward a breakthrough victory in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Tournament for Wittenberg women's lacrosse. However, the Tigers were unable to hang on to a five-goal second-half lead as Denison stormed back with nine unanswered goals for a stunning 16-12 championship game win.
Seeded first after completing their third straight undefeated run through the NCAC regular season, the Tigers were left with an overall record of 14-3. Ranked second in the most recent regional rankings, Wittenberg figures to be among the top candidates in the country for an at-large berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The 2014 field will be announced at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, May 4, on a webcast to be shown on NCAA.com. Denison earned the NCAC's automatic berth into the national tournament, while Wittenberg is hoping for just its second all-time NCAA bid - and its first since 1989.
Wittenberg jumped on top 3-1 in the early going but Denison scored three straight goals to foreshadow the second-half barrage. By halftime, the two teams had battled to a 6-6 draw, with Wittenberg tying the game on an end-to-end run by junior Logan Warye (Maineville, Ohio/Kings) that ended with a short pass and a quick shot by senior Alie Marousek (Ballston Lake, NY/Portsmouth (NH)).
The momentum carried over to the second half as the Tigers appeared to take control of the game. Wittenberg scored the first five goals of the second half and six of the first seven to assume a commanding 12-7 advantage. From that point, however, it was all Denison as the Big Red repeatedly cashed in on Tiger turnovers to score nine goals over the final 19:03.
The final shot count was 28-28, but Denison held advantages in ground balls (33-21) and draw controls (17-13), while Wittenberg was guilty of three more turnovers, including game-changing miscues at the offensive end on back-to-back possessions and the Tigers clinging to a slim margin.
In goal, sophomore Katie Reuter (Cleveland, Ohio/Hathaway Brown) was credited with eight saves. The Tigers defense got a strong game from senior Mallory Skrobot (Dublin, Ohio/Watterson), who contributed five ground balls, one draw control and one caused turnover.
At the other end, Warye tallied three goals and an assist, while sophomore Olivia Lash (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Cleveland Heights), Marousek, sophomore Carrie Kubasta (Medina, Ohio/Medina) and junior Beth Hubbard (West Hartford, Conn./Notre Dame de Sion (Mo.)) contributed two goals apiece. Marousek added a pair of assists.