Blogs and Commentary

posted 02.18.2014 at 10.28 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Morning Jac: W&L Loss Still Lingers for Denison

Would a win over Washington & Lee in the second game of the 2013 season have allowed Denison to earn an at-large bid to the tournament? Probably not, but the 8-7 victory by the Generals is something that hasn't been forgotten in Granville.

"It definitely lingers for us," admitted Big Red head coach Michael Caravana.

From a fan's perspective, it was a fantastic game. It was tied after the second and third quarters, and was still knotted approaching the two minute mark. But a Garrett Paglia goal with 2:04 remaining turned out to be the difference.

For Denison, the contest was less than enthralling.

"We're not playing to recreate, so having a chance to win that game was different," Caravana said. "Later in the season, we got beat by Cabrini by four or five goals and they were better than us that day. I think W&L made one more play than we did."

As long as it's on the schedule, this will be a big game for the two schools. Not only are the two programs annually in the NCAA tournament hunt – meaning a win is a big asset if a Pool C bid is needed – but they share a similar academic profile and compete on the recruiting trail for the same prospective student-athletes. It's a perfect mixture for a rivalry.

"W&L is going to be fired up to play us and we look forward to that opportunity ourselves," Caravana said.

This edition of the Big Red will be more experienced than last year's version. Nine of the top 10 scorers return and the defense, led All-American LSM Austin Campbell, should be solid. More importantly, Denison hasn't been ravaged by the injury bug that impacted last season. There was nothing specific that Caravana could cite for the multitude of injuries, including a season-ending setback for his son, Nick.

"It's one of those things that happens," Caravana said. "If you're in this long enough, some years you have it and some years you don't."

Caravana is, however, putting a positive spin on the terrible weather so far that has created havoc on the practice schedule.

"I can't speak for my peers, but one of the pluses of us having all the snow is we're not banging each other as long because you aren't on the field as much," he said. "You're in the gym and not putting the kids through as rough a pace."

The schedule should be plenty rough. Four days after making the six hour bus ride to Lexington to play Washington & Lee, Denison will have to turn around and face No. 8 Roanoke in Salem, Va, on Wednesday. That is followed by the conference opener against an ever-improving Wooster team on March 2. It's at the point when we'll know more about the Big Red, but the coach expects every game to be a close one.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the close scores you saw with Salisbury-Lynchburg and Stevenson-York happening a lot in Division III," Caravana said. "You're going to see that teams in the Top 40 will be competitive with each other on any given day. It's going to be hard to separate."

They'll be no separating Denison and W&L on Saturday, and for one of them, the loss will undoubtedly linger.