Review & preview: Goucher
Here is the fifth installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division III programs in the state to evaluate the past and offer a glimpse into the future. Wednesday, we take a visit with Goucher.
The good: The Gophers won’t be confused with in-state peers Salisbury and Stevenson, but the offense made some progress. Statistically, the unit averaged 10.7 goals this past spring after averaging 10.3 goals last season. Seven different players recorded at least 11 points, and five of those players scored at least 10 goals each. “We definitely made some improvement on the offensive end, and I think that had to do with the experience on that end because we returned so many offensive players,” coach Kyle Hannan said. “We have two attackmen that have started since their freshman year. That certainly helped and then with Matt Lynch in the midfield, I think that’s where we had the most game experience and continuity on the offensive end.” … The question mark heading into the season involved determining the successor to goalkeeper Chris Stricklin. That question was resolutely answered by the emergence of sophomore Conor Mishaw, who registered a 7.22 goals-against average and a .610 save percentage. Both of those figures tied him for 24th in the country in both goals-against average and save percentage. “He kind of played the way we knew he was capable of playing,” Hannan said. “He’s a very talented player, and he’s going to make a lot more saves for Goucher lacrosse over the next couple of years.” … Another individual highlight came from junior attackman Rory Averett, who scored 53 goals last spring and has deposited 138 in his career. He surpassed Phil Anthony for the school record for goals in a season (50 in 2002) and Anthony for gals in a career (132 from 1999 to 2002). Averett has consistently downplayed his achievements, but Hannan openly praised his attackman. “He really stepped up and did great things this year,” Hannan said.
The bad: A promising season that included an 11-6 record and a 4-1 mark in the Landmark Conference ended on a disappointing note as Goucher fell, 12-8, to Scranton in the tournament final on May 7. After qualifying for their first NCAA tournament last spring, the Gophers have now lost in the Landmark tournament in three of the last four years. “We didn’t play well in the Landmark championship game,” Hannan said. “So that’s another thing that we have to learn, how to play better on that big stage.” … A year removed from nearly winning 50 percent of faceoffs, the team absorbed a huge dropoff in that department. The unit won just 35.5 percent (130-of-366) of the draws. Five different players took at least 37 faceoffs – the most telling sign that the team sorely missed the presence of Nick LaBricciosa, who won 50.4 percent (171-of-339) in his final year of eligibility last spring. “We thought we had a couple of guys waiting in the wings, and it just worked out that their hand speed and technique just wasn’t quite good enough at this level to consistently win faceoffs,” Hannan said. “We did all kinds of things as the season went along in terms of trying different people and different techniques and adding poles to the wings and having long sticks take faceoffs. We were trying to be as creative as possible, but we kind of put a bandage on an area that we needed to be healed. That’s an area we’re making a big effort to improve on in the fall.” … With just two seniors on the roster, Hannan said the team lacked some guidance from the players themselves, who are generally better at rallying their teammates and keeping them in check. Hannan is hopeful that the return of nine soon-to-be seniors can carry out that task next season. “Where we need to improve the most is leadership, and I think that’s going to happen,” he said. “We return every player except for two, and I think that by having a very veteran team coming back, that leadership is going to be better. Everybody is going to understand their role, and that’s going to help us tremendously next spring.”
Personnel changes: The Gophers’ only loss in the starting lineup is two-time honorable-mention All-American defenseman Justin Dunn, who led the team in both ground balls (53) and caused turnovers (46). Freshman long-stick midfielder Paul Taylor is poised to move into Dunn’s spot, but that leaves the team searching for a long-stick midfielder. “I think there’s a couple of freshmen that are really going to vie for that spot,” Hannan said. “[Incoming freshman] Ethan Haddaway is a young man who has a ton of talent. [Junior] Tom Stabler could play there. There’s also a couple of returners that we’re going to look at for that spot, and we’ll see how that shakes out. ” …. As mentioned previously, five different players took at least 37 faceoffs with sophomore Gavin Loney (44-of-133 for .389) taking the brunt of the draws. While citing a pair of incoming faceoff specialists in David Waligurski and Tristan Morris, Hannan said he must weigh using a rotation of players or going with a primary specialist. “There’s a chance we could have a rotation,” he said. “We’d rather have one guy, kind of like a goalie where that is his responsibility and he takes pride in it and really works on his technique throughout every practice. But I don’t know if we’re going to be in that position next year.” … Next year’s starting attack figures to be filled by juniors Kyle Boncaro (28 goals and 28 assists) and Averett (53, 12). Freshmen Max Roach (11, 2) and George Skelos (5, 7) will likely compete to round out the unit, but Hannan noted that incoming freshman Sam Morgan scored 120 points in 17 games in his final season with Kearsarge Regional High School in New Hampshire. “We’re excited about having him because he’s going to fight for a spot to be able to play with Kyle Boncaro and Rory Averett,” Hannan said. “So that could be a very potent attack.”
Forecast for 2011: Partly sunny. Goucher has a few holes to fill. Filling Dunn’s spot might not be terribly difficult, but replicating his ball-hawking abilities is no easy task. And as long as faceoffs continue to cost the offense possible possessions and scoring opportunities, the team might have a tough time taking the next step. But with nine returning starters and several key contributors waiting in the wings, the Gophers have a ton of potential in the lineup and on the field. If a few incoming freshmen can validate Hannan’s optimism, Goucher could find itself atop the Landmark Conference again and poised to qualify for the NCAA tournament.