After reaching the semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament last spring for the third time in school history and the first since 2001, North Coast Athletic Conference men's lacrosse coaches have unanimously selected Denison as the favorites for the 2018 league championship based on preseason balloting.
The Big Red, who are the two-time defending NCAC regular season and tournament champions, earned all nine first-place votes to top the poll with 80 points, while Ohio Wesleyan finished second with 70 total points. Wittenberg checked in at third with 64 points, followed by Kenyon (52), Wooster (45), DePauw (34), Oberlin (31), Wabash (18) and Hiram (10).
Denison, which enters the 2018 season ranked fourth in the USILA/Nike Preseason Poll, returns a pair of All-American performers that posted an overall record of 18-2 and a perfect 8-0 mark against conference foes, including senior defender Ben Duhoski (St. Thomas, USVI/The Millbrook School) and junior midfielder Jake Waxter (Baltimore, MD/Gilman). Duhoski, who has also been named to the 2018 USILA Div. III Player of the Year Watchlist, anchored the Big Red's defensive unit a year ago that limited opponents to just 7.1 goals per game by scooping up 51 groundballs and causing 34 turnovers, while Waxter was a force in the midfield in 2017 with 42 total points on 28 goals and 14 assists. Junior attack Spencer Butler (Essex Fells, NJ/Millbrook School) was also a key contributor on DU's record-setting offense a year ago that set the NCAC scoring record with 358 goals in 20 games. After scoring 65 goals each last spring, Butler and 2017 DU graduate Will Donohue now share the NCAC record for goals in a season, while Butler's 11 goals in a 25-11 win over Illinois Wesleyan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament stands alone as the top single-game mark in league history. Finally, junior faceoff specialist Henry DeCamp (Washington, DC/Deerfield Acad.) also returns to the fold this season after winning 266-of-417 faceoff attempts in 2017 and leading the Big Red with 135 total ground balls. DU head coach Mike Caravana returns for his 25th season in Granville with an overall record of 274-89, which ranks ninth in NCAA Div. III history for career wins. In 24 years at DU, Caravana's squads have won 13 NCAC titles and have qualified for the NCAA Tournament on 14 different occasions.
Ohio Wesleyan leads all NCAC teams with 19 championships in 33 years. Denison, which has won at least a share of six of the last seven league titles, follows OWU with 17 all-time, while Wittenberg has two and Kenyon and Wooster each 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.
2018 North Coast Athletic Conference