After reaching the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016, North Coast Athletic Conference men's lacrosse coaches have selected Denison as the favorite for the 2017 league title based on preseason balloting.
The Big Red, who are the defending NCAC regular season and tournament champions, earned eight of the nine possible first-place votes to top the poll with 80 points, while Ohio Wesleyan collected the final first-place vote and finished second in the poll with 72 points. Kenyon checked in at third with 62 points, followed by Wittenberg (50), Wooster (46), Oberlin (35) and DePauw (32), while Hiram and Wabash shared the eighth spot with 14 points each.
Denison, which is also ranked 10th in the USILA/Nike Preseason Poll, returns a pair of All-American performers from last year's squad that posted an overall record of 18-2 and a perfect 8-0 mark against league foes, including senior attack Liam Rooney (Redding, CT/Joel Barlow) and junior defender Ben Duhoski (Millbrook, NY/The Millbrook School). Rooney, a two-time All-NCAC first-team selection, is DU's top returning scorer from a year ago with 31 goals and 36 assists for 67 total points. In the NCAC Quarterfinal matchup against Salisbury, he tallied four goals in the Big Red's heartbreaking 11-10 overtime loss to the eventual national champs. Duhoski, who was also an All-NCAC first-team pick in 2016, started all 20 games for DU and finished the campaign with 38 ground balls and 19 total caused turnovers. Junior defensive midfielder Josh Happ (Columbus, OH/Worthington Kilbourne) also returns to the fold this season for DU after finishing 2016 with 59 ground balls and 10 total points (8g, 2a). Head Coach Mike Caravana returns to the sidelines for his 24th season at DU. He boasts an overall record of 256-87, which ranks ninth in NCAA Division III history in career wins. Since Caravana's arrival, the Big Red have won 12 NCAC championships and have qualified for the NCAA Tournament on 13 different occasions.
Ohio Wesleyan leads all NCAC teams with 19 championships in 32 years. Denison, which has won at least a share of five of the last six league titles, follows OWU with 16 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.
2017 North Coast Athletic Conference
|2.||Ohio Wesleyan (1)||72|