By the slimmest of margins the Tigers (8-7-1, 4-3-1) kept their postseason hopes alive on Wednesday night as they played to 1-1 draw with the Wabash College Little Giants (12-2-3, 5-2-1).
Couple that result with a 4-1 loss by Denison University to Ohio Wesleyan University and a playoff game is set up between the Big Red and the Tigers on Saturday afternoon.
With one regular season game remaining, the Tigers sit a tantalizing two points behind Oberlin for the fourth and final seed into the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament. To get to the postseason, the Tigers will have to defeat the Big Red, a draw does them no good.
“There is something really special about putting yourself in position where your last games have meaning and everything on the line,” DePauw head coach Brad Hauter said.
To get to that point, the Tigers still had to take care of business against their longtime rivals who have already locked up their place in the conference tournament.
The Little Giants struck first on a goal from Riley Pelton in the 32nd minute of the match.
It wouldn’t take long for the Tigers to recover and this time, it was an unlikely hero that came to the rescue.
Senior Andy Morrison found first-year Taras Tataryn who put a shot past Wabash goalkeeper Dayton Jennings for his first collegiate goal with just over five minutes to play in the first half.
With the score tied at one, both defenses dug in and forced the score to remain even after the overtime period finished. Jennings recorded five saves while DePauw goalkeeper, senior Jake Pezzuto tallied seven stops in the effort.
So now the stage is set for what will be an eventful day at Reavis Stadium. Not only is Saturday’s game a must-win for the Tigers, it is also the final regular season game and senior day.
Tiger players, however, aren’t worried about nerves playing a role.
“We control our own destiny, and with it being our last home game, I intend to enjoy the moment,” Morrison said.
The same goes for Pezzuto in net.
“For all the seniors it’s going to be an emotional day, but at the same time, everyone recognizes that Denison is the only thing standing between us and getting back to the conference tournament,” Pezzuto said. “Even though it’s all of our seniors last chance to play at home, I think everyone recognizes the significance and importance of getting the result, and I’m excited to see us rise to the challenge.”
The pregame ceremony will feature the seniors being escorted onto the field by family members and then a banquet to honor the players will be held after the game.
To ensure that the post game meal is a happy one, Hauter and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t doing anything different with the preparation for the Big Red.
“To prepare for Denison it is business as usual,” Hauter said. “We will watch as many matches as we can and call some of the teams that has played them recently and get info.”
Recent history shows that Saturday’s winner-take-all game could be fairly tight. The Tigers have won four out of the 10 meeting between the two schools, while playing to draws in three others.
However, the Tigers have found their new home at Reavis Stadium particularly comforting. In their six games played in Greencastle this year, DePauw has a record of 5-1, while sporting a 3-6-1 record in road contests.
Once again, Pezzuto emphasizes the fact that he and the rest of the Tigers won’t let their nerves get the best of them.
“There are always nerves and nervous energy before a game for any competitor, but it’s games like this where you literally feel like you have to leave everything out on the field because it might be your last chance,” Pezzuto said. “And it shows who has character to rise up and who doesn’t, and I believe our team has the character to rise to the challenge.”
The Tigers and Big Red are scheduled to get underway at 2:30 p.m. or immediately after the both school’s womens team finish.