North Coast Athletic Conference coaches have tabbed Ohio Wesleyan as the favorite for the 30th men's lacrosse season based on preseason balloting by the league coaches.
The Battling Bishops, winners of the inaugural NCAC Tournament in 2013, earned five of the possible eight first-place votes cast by league coaches to total 61 points. Denison, which is the two-time defending NCAC champion, earned the final three first-place votes and finished second in the poll with 59 points. Wooster landed in the third position with 44 points, followed by Kenyon (35), Wittenberg (33), Oberlin (32), DePauw (15) and Hiram (9).
OWU will have a powerful attack line in 2014, led by senior Casey Helms (Sandwich, MA/Bridgton Acad.) and junior John Umbach (Montclair, NJ/Montclair). Helms, an All-NCAC second-team selection in 2013, is the Bishops' top returning offensive threat after totaling 51 points last spring with 16 assists and a team-high 35 goals. Umbach, a member of the 2013 All-NCAC honorable mention squad, was second on the team with 31 goals and handed out seven assists for 38 points. Senior Spencer Schnell (Dublin, OH/Jerome), an honorable mention All-American in 2013, will once again give the squad a scoring threat from the midfield position after he finished with 20 goals last season. Defensively, junior Ryan McMahon (Springfield, VA/The Bullis School) returns in the goal for OWU after collecting 134 saves and a 6.65 goals-against-average in 2013, while junior Sam Gioseffi (Harrison, NY/Harrison) led the Bishops a year ago with 116 ground balls and .587 face-off percentage (169-of-288). Head coach Mike Plantholt, who has guided the Battling Bishops to three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, owns a record of 34-15 in three years at the helm of the OWU men's lacrosse program.
Ohio Wesleyan leads all North Coast teams with 18 championships in 29 years. Denison, which earned the league title a year ago, follows with 14, Wittenberg has two, while Kenyon and Wooster each can boast one championship. The NCAC has had tri-champions on three separate occasions, first in 2000 when the Big Red, Bishops and Lords shared the title, then in 2004, when Denison, OWU and Wooster each had a piece of the crown, only to have it happen again in 2011 with Denison, Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan sharing the top spot. The conference also saw Ohio Wesleyan and Wittenberg share the conference crown in 2010.
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, DePauw University, Denison University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey). The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.