By Hugh Kerins
and Jimmy Sanzone
The Battling Bishops men’s lacrosse team has started the season strong with an 11-5 record, and looks to continue to improve going into North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament play. Through April 20 the Bishops had only lost five games, one to conference rival Denison University. The team lost 8-11 in a close battle against Denison on April 17 at Selby Stadium. At that time the team was battling with Denison for the outright first place position in the conference.
Denison has now won 11 of the past 12 match ups against OWU dating back to 2005.
“They were a good team,” senior attacker Colin Short said. “And they were really good at being patient while they had possession of the ball and at waiting for their openings to strike.”
The Big Red took a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with goals from attackers Teddy Powell and Nick Caravana. At the 2:01 mark, the Bishops were forced to call a timeout after being shut out the previous 13 minutes of the quarter.
“We really didn’t take the time we needed to set up our offense to attack the net,” said freshman defender Mike Knapp after failing to score in the first quarter.
The Battling Bishops immediately responded in the opening minutes of the second quarter with senior midfielder Pat Bassett scoring the first goal of the game for his team, making the score 2-1.
Stagnant play followed Bassett’s goal as both teams failed to score for the next ten minutes of action. Ohio Wesleyan sophomore Ryan McMahon made a few crucial saves in the opening minutes, keeping his team in the game.
OWU forced Denison to call a timeout with 4:33 remaining in the first half after the Bishops stole possession from Big Red midfielder Christian Miranda and Powell.
The Big Red immediately responded, scoring three times in the next three minutes to pull ahead 5-1 over the Bishops with 1:55 to go in the half. The first half ended with the Bishops trailing Denison 5-2.
Knapp was determined to win at halftime.
“We didn’t care about the score,” he said. “We knew we needed to play great lacrosse the next half to win the game.”
OWU came within one goal on two separate occasions in the third quarter, trailing both 6-5 and 7-6 in that time.
Denison battled back, with attacker Eddie Vita scoring off a Powell assist with 1:13 remaining in the quarter, giving the Big Red an 8-6 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of action.
After turnovers from both teams to begin the fourth quarter, Denison midfielders Tyler King and Chapin Speidel scored two consecutive goals in a span of 21 seconds, taking a 10-6 lead with 7:31 to go in the game.
After failing to create good shot attempts for the entire quarter, OWU ended their scoring drought with goals from senior midfielder Scotty Rosenthal and Short. The Bishops trailed the Big Red 10-8 with 3:20 remaining in the game.
The Bishops fought back throughout the game but were never able to overcome the deficit.
“We weren’t getting enough time on offense,” said freshman Sam Carpenter, and OWU spectator. “Our defense didn’t do a great job of getting the ball back to our offense.”
After desperation set in and OWU pulled their goalie, Denison’s Blair Farinholt scored to give his team an 11-8 lead, which ended up being the game’s final score.
Vita and Speidel led the Big Red with three goals each, while Short paced OWU with three goals.
After the loss to Denison, the Bishops had a 5-1 conference record and would finish 6-1 with another conference win against Wittenberg University on April 20. Denison improved to 6-0 in the NCAC and 11-2 overall.
Sophomore John Umbach scored three goals in the contest to help Ohio Wesleyan build an 8-0 lead through three quarters. The Bishops went on to beat Wittenberg with a final score of 11-3.
“It was good for us to be able to bounce back after having a tough loss early in the week,” Umbach said. “It really showed that we could leave what happened in the past and move on and come out get another conference win to put us in a great position to win the NCAC tournament.”
Sophomore midfielder Kyle Foster scored all of the Bishops’ first three goals in the contest against Wittenberg. Midway through the period, it was senior attacker Colin Short who rang up the goal off a Foster assist to expand the Bishop lead to 3-0.
Less than a minute later senior midfielder Pat Bassett would make it 4-0, and the first quarter ended with Ohio Wesleyan holding that lead.
Foster and Helms would continue the scoring for the Bishops into the second quarter, helping OWU run out to an impressive 8-0 lead during the game. Wittenberg would avoid the shutout with a late goal in the fourth quarter.
“That day our defense was really playing well, and we all seemed to be on the same page of what to do,” McMahon said. “We knew what we needed to do to get the win, and we went out and executed it.”
The win against Wittenberg clinched Ohio Wesleyan the No. 2 seed in the inaugural NCAC tournament. Ohio Wesleyan hosted third-seeded Wooster in the tournament semifinal at 7 p.m. on Tuesday April 23 at Selby Stadium.