Despite – or perhaps because of – the death of sophomore midfielder Matthew Gabriel on Monday morning, Goucher will play host to Landmark Conference rival Catholic at Gopher Stadium in Towson on Thursday.
Coach Brian Kelly said the Gabriel family has encouraged the team to play the game as originally scheduled.
"They’re so strong in their faith that they believe there’s a plan for Matthew and that he is with God now,” Kelly said on Tuesday night. “Their words to me directly were, ‘Matthew would have wanted you to continue to play the game that he loved, and he would want his teammates to continue to play the game that he loved and to continue to do what you do, and that’s life, to live life because he lived his life to the fullest.’ He’s always been a selfless human being, and he will be terribly missed physically. But spiritually and emotionally, he will live through us. We all believe that."
Gabriel, 19, of Austin, Texas, was struck by a car while crossing Dulaney Valley Road early Sunday morning. The driver of the car did not remain at the scene, but was found and charged with hit-and-run and driving under the influence, according to police.
Gabriel died on Monday morning at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where the team had gathered Sunday and Monday. The team practiced Monday and Tuesday and grieved together on Monday night.
“We’re just together,” Kelly said as he pulled up to his house, where the team had convened to eat dinner together. “… We’ve tried to be together as much as we can to support each other and love each other as well as try to find any bit of normalcy that we can through routine. We’ve practiced, and we’ve continued to go to class and go to work because as at the end of the day, as tragic as it is, life goes on. I think everyone is doing as best they can in light of how awful and tragic this event is.”
Gabriel played in five games this season, picking up seven ground balls. But even more importantly, his sense of self rubbed off on his teammates and coaches.
“He was probably the most secure human being I’ve ever met,” Kelly said. “There are so many of us that walk around with insecurities and what people think about us, and Matthew just didn’t care. He was playful, he was energetic, he had the greatest sense of humor. He was just an amazing human being. Tomorrow, our campus will probably be decked out in Hawaiian shirts because he brought Hawaiian Shirt Wednesday to Goucher with him from Texas. That’s just the type of kid he was. He was playful and energetic and confident, but yet just one of the smartest people you will ever meet.”
For Thursday’s game, the players plan to wear green “Donate Life” armbands in honor of Gabriel, who was an organ donor. It will be a difficult game for the Gophers.
“Ultimately, whether it’s Thursday or rescheduled for a Saturday or next week, there’s always going to be that emotional piece,” Kelly said. “Physically, by Thursday, our guys will be healed. They’ll be ready to go physically, but I think emotionally – whether it’s Thursday or Saturday or the following week or two weeks from now – whenever we would be taking the field again, we would be taking it without Matthew.
"So, that emotional piece is always going to be there, and that’s why we feel strongly that we want to play Thursday and live our lives because we know that Matthew lived his life to the fullest.”