Review & preview: Goucher

A look at the 2013 season for the Gophers and a glimpse into 2014

June 18, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Here is the fourth installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Monday’s visit was with McDaniel. Tuesday’s visit is with Goucher.

REVIEW

The good: After attackmen Kyle Boncaro and Rory Averett and midfielder Matt Lynch graduated and head coach Kyle Hannan jumped ship for Division I Mercer, the Gophers were expected to run into a good amount of interference in the Landmark Conference. But for the fifth consecutive year, the program captured the regular-season title and did so with a perfect 6-0 record. The convincing run was validation for the players, who would not have been faulted for feeling a little underappreciated. “I think it speaks to the guys who were on the team and were every bit a part of those great teams as the Big Three – as we like to call them – was,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It proved some validation from their standpoint. It wasn’t just three guys that were responsible for the team’s success. There were 40-some guys behind them. So certainly, there was some validation in that regard.”

… The team opened the season with a 13-9 victory over Birmingham Southern, a NCAA tournament qualifier last year. But the good vibes would not last as Goucher lost its next six games. Kelly was gratified to see the squad respond by winning seven of its last eight contests in the regular season because that spurt revealed to him a slice of the players’ perseverance. “It just goes to the character of the guys that make up our program,” he said. “They’re a hard-working group and at the end of the day, they’re a talented group that stuck together and showed true character and hear to overcome that early-season adversity and end the year on somewhat of a positive note.”

… With the graduation of Boncaro, Averett and Lynch, the team heavily relied on the defense to provide the foundation and Connor Mishaw did not disappoint. The senior goalkeeper recorded a 9.17 goals-against average and a .571 save percentage en route to being named an honorable-mention All American, giving the program an All American for the fourth straight year. “He gave up a lot of goals, but he also had a great year and kept us in a lot of games,” Kelly said of Mishaw. “So that was certainly a highlight, having an All American come out of our program.”

The bad: Despite the unbeaten run through the Landmark Conference, Goucher (8-8 overall) was unable to bring home its third tournament championship in four years as the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy pulled off a 6-5 stunner in a semifinal on May 1. The outcome was even more surprising considering that the Gophers had walloped the Mariners, 10-5, on April 27. “It certainly was disappointing,” Kelly conceded. “Merchant Marine was an athletic and talented team and played a really good game defensively that night, and it certainly was disappointing because I thought we generated a lot of quality shot opportunities and we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make to win a lacrosse game. We had done some really good things at various times and we just couldn’t get the ball past the goalie. To know that was our last game and that we weren’t going to get a chance to play for the conference championship and ultimately a spot in the NCAA tournament was definitely disappointing because we had played well in the conference and then when it was win or go home, we didn’t rise to the occasion.”

… The offense figured to be a work in progress for much of the 2013 campaign, but the unit hit a rut towards the end of the season. The team converted less than 20 percent of its shots in four of its last six contests, averaged 7.3 goals over that span, and lost twice in those six games. The offense’s troubles were epitomized by a season-worst 11.1 percentage in the setback to the Merchant Marine. “[W]e played in a conference playoff game where we shot the ball 45 times and we only scored five goals,” Kelly said. “So if you look at our shooting percentage across the season, I think we were only 21 percent. So we certainly need to get better in that regard. We generate a lot of shots based on their offensive scheme. We just have to do a better job of getting the ball past the goalie. That was ultimately our Achilles heel and it came back to bite us in our final game against Merchant Marine Academy.”

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