May 11, 2011

Lord Saves Wittenberg in Overtime

from press release

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio
— The Wittenberg Tigers had been in this position before, trailing in the early going against a visiting underdog opponent. Rather than wait until the second half to start the rally, this time the Tigers buckled down immediately on defense and parlayed some clutch offensive performances into a thrilling 8-7 overtime victory over Adrian in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The rally earned Wittenberg, which improved to 14-1, a second round date with Dickinson, champion of the powerhouse Centennial Conference. The sixth-ranked Red Devils are 16-1 on the season and were awarded a first-round bye. Adrian, which hadn't lost since March 26 at home against the Tigers, ended its season with a mark of 15-3.

After starting the season 11-0, Wittenberg was stunned by Ohio Wesleyan on April 27 as the Battling Bishops jumped out to a 5-1 halftime lead en route to a 7-6 upset victory. Similarly, the Tigers trailed Adrian 4-0 after the Bulldogs scored on their first four shots over the opening 6:06. It was a gutcheck for Wittenberg, and especially for senior goalkeeper Mark DeOliveira (East Hanover, NJ/East Hanover), now in his third year as a team captain.

"We started slow, but we learned a lot from our past experiences as a veteran team, being down multiple goals early," said Head Coach George Harris, who earlier this season broke the program record for career coaching victories. "We've been through that earlier this year, and we knew how to get things going.

"Hand it to DeO (Mark DeOliveira). He's a three-year captain for a reason, and he picked up his game and our defense picked up the intensity."

With the defensive unit reeling, senior Matt Lord (Pickerington, Ohio/North) started the rally with a goal just 10 seconds after Adrian had taken its four-goal advantage. That was followed by a score by senior Mitch Cohagan (Pickerington, Ohio/North) at the 5:42 mark and a tally by senior Matt Snider (Cookeville, Tenn./Cookeville) with 2:17 left in the first quarter. The two teams then traded scores in the second quarter, with Cohagan giving his team a huge lift with a goal with just 15 seconds left before intermission to make it 5-4 at halftime.

The two teams traded goals to open the third quarter as well, but the Tigers evened the score on Lord's second goal with 9:47 left. That set the stage for a hard-fought fourth quarter, which started with Lord's third goal. However, he hit the goal frame three times in the game, and the Bulldogs took advantage of the near-misses, tying the game with a score at the 3:07 mark. After Wittenberg was unable to finish it off in regulation despite multiple scoring opportunities in the waning minutes, the two teams moved to sudden victory overtime.

Adrian had two possessions to open the overtime frame, but a turnover and then a DeOliveira save sent the Tigers on a final fruitful attacking opportunity. After a timeout, Lord made several moves to shake a Bulldog defender and then his bouncing shot deflected off the Adrian goalkeeper and found the back of the net to give Wittenberg its first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament victory.

"This was just a great, hard-fought battle," Harris said. "We knew coming in it would be a 60-minute challenge, and it turned out to be even more. I'm really proud of our guys' efforts. They persevered to the end."

For the game, Wittenberg outshot Adrian 47-34, but Bulldog goalkeeper Matt Neal was simply outstanding with 17 saves, including seven in the fourth quarter alone. DeOliveira was credited with nine saves.

Lord led the offense with four goals, while Cohagan added two and senior Chris Gipson (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) one. Senior Brady Christensen (Medina, Ohio/Medina) was held without a goal, but he contributed three key assists, while sophomore Alex Previte (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman) added two and senior Danny Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hill) one.


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