Here is the fifth installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Tuesday, we take a visit with Goucher.
The good: After back-to-back losses in the Landmark Conference Tournament, the Gophers rebounded nicely by capturing the conference tournament and earning the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament. Even though the team’s run ended with a 10-6 setback to Middlebury in the first round, the season was still a success. "The two main goals that we had were to win the Landmark and to participate in the national tournament, and we were able to accomplish both of those goals," coach Kyle Hannan said. "It was good for Goucher lacrosse because now we’ve gotten to the place that we wanted to be in the past. I think we can be a mainstay if we continue to do things the right way." … The offense has traditionally leaned on the attack to lead the charge, and sophomores Kyle Boncaro (38 goals and 28 assists) and Rory Averett (48, 8) didn’t disappoint. But the first midfield of sophomore Matt Lynch (34, 24), senior Jacob Fratella (16, 8) and freshman John Curry (11, 6) also contributed, making the unit multi-dimensional. "I think something that helped us this year was we were more balanced scoring in the midfield and scoring from the attack than we have been in the past," Hannan said. "Our attack has done a lot of our scoring, and we were able to balance that up with our midfielders. That made it more difficult to defend us down the stretch because we could create some offense from up top and behind the goal." … A pair of freshmen defensemen in starter R.J. Lucas (26 groundballs and 24 caused turnovers) and reserve Paul Taylor (33 groundballs and 27 caused turnovers) solidified a defense that surrendered just 6.7 goals per game. Both Lucas and Taylor will be expected to team with junior and All-American honorable mention Justin Dunn (66 groundballs and 59 caused turnovers) to anchor that unit next spring.
The bad: The offense averaged 10.3 goals this season, but Hannan said the players could benefit from refining their techniques during the offseason. "We rely a lot on athleticism, and our real focus for next year for every player and coach in the program is to become more complete and to understand the flow of the game and how to get yourself into successful positions," he said. "We struggled with that this year, but because of our athleticism, our speed, our strength and our size, we were really able to win games off of that. So I would think that’s got to be our main goal, to make sure that the guys commit to being more well-rounded players." … As well as the attack performed, the unit was still searching for consistent production from the third attackman spot. Sophomore Jackson Lane posted six goals and one assist in eight starts, but opposing defenses tended to slide off of Lane to pay more attention to Boncaro and Averett. "We have to develop our third attackman to have more of a presence," Hannan said. "We have got to find that third guy and that could mean we continue to develop Jackson Lane. I also feel like we have three very talented attackmen coming in to fight for that spot, and I also think we have two freshmen [Kyle Borsody and Mike Russo]. So I think there’s going to be a lot of competition for that third attack spot." … Like many other teams, Goucher’s second midfield of junior Chris Argonish, sophomore Pat Peddicord and Russo provided support by protecting the ball and giving the first line a breather, but more contributions from the second line could make that offense even more dangerous. "As we have to develop our third attackman, I think we need to get a second midfield that can create a little more on offense," Hannan said. "That was a super young group last year, and I think them having a year under their belts is good. And there will be a few new faces coming in who could put a lot of pressure on the returning guys to run on the second midfield."
Personnel changes: The biggest change will occur in the net where Chris Stricklin capped a successful senior year by registering a 6.13 goals-against average and a .653 save percentage. But Hannan is optimistic that freshman Connor Mishaw (10.36 goals-against average and .558 save percentage) can fill that void. "I really think he is going to gel with the defense next year and have a phenomenal season," Hannan said. "He’s one of the more talented kids who has ever been in the program." … Argonish recorded six goals and two assists as he transitioned from attack to midfield, and he could be the primary candidate to replace Fratella on the first midfield. "At about midseason, we put him at midfield, and he’s going to stay in the midfield," Hannan said. "He’s a big athletic kid that’s just a little bit more of natural midfielder than an attackman." … Nick LaBricciosa took the vast majority of face-offs, winning 51.4 percent (167-of-325). His graduation leaves a hole that will be an immediate priority for the Gophers. "That’s a concern of ours because it is going to be a new guy at the face-off X and winning possessions are awfully important," Hannan said. "We feel that [sophomore] Heath Thumel is somebody that we’re really going to spend a lot of time with and try to develop. He has everything it takes to be a successful face-off guy. It’s just a matter of him getting the time and coaching and repetitions to be our guy."
Forecast for 2011: Sunny. Goucher has some holes to fill, especially in the cage and on face-offs. But the team will welcome back six of its top seven scorers, including its entire attack. And Hannan is optimistic that an incoming recruiting class of 16 players – the largest in the program’s history – can push some of the veterans and improve the team’s overall talent and depth. With more underclassmen than upperclassmen, the Gophers are in line to make a return to the Landmark Conference and NCAA tournaments.