Washington had won the first two meetings between these teams until Goucher edged the Shoremen, 8-6, on Feb. 25. The Gophers, ranked 10th in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, have won 14 straight contests game en route to a 17-1 mark and their second Landmark Conference tournament championship in the last three years. Washington, ranked 18th, is 11-5 and captured its first Centennial Conference regular-season title since 2004. Here are a few factors that could play a role in this NCAA tournament first-round contest at Roy Kirby, Jr. Field in Chestertown Wednesday afternoon.
1) Goucher’s Big 3. The Gophers are averaging 13.4 goals per game, ranking 14th in Division III this spring. Their offense is built on three seniors in attackmen Kyle Boncaro (54 goals and 27 assists) and Rory Averett (48, 15) and midfielder Matt Lynch (35, 37). The challenge for a Shoremen defense that surrenders 7.6 goals per game is containing that trio. “What we’ve stressed to our guys is we know each of their tendencies and so from an individual matchup standpoint, we want to make sure that we defend those tendencies,” Washington coach Jeff Shirk said. “And we’re really going to rely on our team defense. They got really five or six big guys in the attack and first midfield, and you’re not going to defend those guys individually. You’re really going to have to do it as a team. So we’ve really just stressed a lot of our team defensive rules and making sure that we’re communicating.”
2) Washington’s Bennett Cord. The Shoremen boast eight players with at least 10 points each and seven of those have scored at least 10 goals each. But the leader is junior attackman Bennett Cord, who paces Washington in goals (38), assists (21) and points (59). Goucher coach Kyle Hannan said the defense will key on Cord, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. “I’m sure a lot of teams have game-planned for him, and he’s still scoring,” Hannan said. “We just have to make sure that we know where he is, have a stick on him, and do a really good job of defending him because there is no doubt that their offense goes as he goes. They have some other talented guys so that they can spread the wealth, but those other guys aren’t prolific scorers. They make plays to help them win games, but Bennett Cord can score four on you in a half if you let him.”
3) Washington’s man-up unit. The Shoremen had opportunities to beat the Gophers back in February, most notably on extra-man opportunities. Washington scored just once on seven man-up chances, and for the year, that unit has struggled, converting just 20.8 percent (15-of-72) of its opportunities. That doesn’t bode well against a Goucher man-down unit that has allowed opponents to score on 18.7 percent (15-of-80) of those extra-man chances. “That’s actually been one of our focuses the last two days because we went 0-for-5 against Dickinson, too,” Shirk said, referring to the Shoremen’s 11-5 loss in Sunday’s Centennial Conference tournament final. “For whatever reason, the last few games, we’ve been struggling with our man up. So we really took some time in the last two days to hopefully correct some of those issues because we’ve got to be able to score goals when we’re man up. So that’s definitely one of our focuses.”