Goucher is 7-4 in this series and has won the last four meetings. Drew, the No. 2 seed in the Landmark Conference tournament, set a new program record for wins with 13 this season and has won its last eight contests. The Gophers, the top seed in the league tournament, is 16-1 and is riding a 13-game winning streak. Goucher, which won the regular-season meeting between these teams, 18-8, on March 24, is aiming for its second conference tournament crown in the last three years. The Rangers are looking to claim their second league title since 2008. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Gopher Stadium in Towson Saturday.
1) Drew’s evolution. The current Rangers team is a shadow of the one that was overwhelmed by Goucher almost two months ago. Gophers coach Kyle Hannan said Drew has tweaked its starting lineup, is running different offensive sets, and has added a few defensive wrinkles. It will be imperative for Goucher to recognize those differences and forget about that regular-season demolition. “It was one of those games where everything we touched turned to gold, and that doesn’t happen a lot in the game of lacrosse,” Hannan said, referring to the offense scoring 18 goals on 36 shots and the faceoff unit almost winning 50 percent of the draws against senior Sean McGown, who leads Division III with a 70.7 success rate. “We’ve got to keep that perspective and understand that while we certainly hope to shoot 50 percent again, the odds are we’re not. So scoring 18 goals is going to be awfully difficult and it’s the same thing at the faceoff X. I think our guys understand that and even though we beat them 18-8, we realize that was just one of those special games.”
2) Goucher’s shooters. The Gophers rank 14th in the country in offense, averaging 13.7 goals this season. They were especially prolific against the Rangers and senior goalkeeper Charlie DeSocio. DeSocio is a two-time all-conference goalie who ranked second in the league with an 8.09 goals-against average, but he was chased out of the regular-season meeting after surrendering eight goals on 10 shots. But Hannan expects a different DeSocio this Saturday. “I don’t know how much we’re going to able to rattle him,” Hannan said. “I hope we are able to create the shots like we did the first time around and shoot as well as we did once we created those shots. You always want to jump on a goalie early just to get him thinking and make the shooting a little bit easier, but he’s a real prideful guy and has been one of the best goalies for the last three years in the league. So I’m sure he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulders going into this game. So I’m expecting him to be at his best because I’m sure he wasn’t really excited about getting pulled in the second quarter the first time we played.”
3) Drew’s off-ball movement. Eight different Rangers have registered 22 points or more this season, and five have compiled at least 10 assists. Hannan said Drew’s offense is predicated on a lot of off-ball movement designed to create confusion and lull an opposing defense to sleep. It will be up to Goucher’s defenders to be wary of where the Rangers are. “They’re really smart with the ball, they find the right guy, they get to the right spots,” Hannan said. “If you’re sloppy defensively, that’s how they score goals. And if you’re not covering up the crease and spotting their cutters, they handle the ball well. I like our athletic matchup because of our speed, but you’ve got to do all the things off the ball to hold them to a low number of goals.”