Last year, the Goucher men's lacrosse team watched Scranton celebrate the Landmark Conference championship on the Gophers' field.
On Saturday, the Gophers made sure they were the ones who were celebrating. They jumped out to a 5-0 advantage and outlasted visiting Drew to claim a 10-7 victory in the league title game before an announced attendance of 428 at Gopher Stadium in Towson on Saturday .
Goucher, the top seed in the tournament, improved to 17-1 and extended its win streak to 14. It's the second conference crown in three years for the Gophers, who vividly remembered that 12-8 setback against Scranton.
"We've waited a full year for this," said senior attackman Kyle Boncaro, who tied teammate and senior midfielder Matt Lynch for a game-high four points. "Coach [Kyle Hannan] prepared us very well. He kept us within the system and helped us believe, and we accomplished our year-long goal."
Goucher, which will find out Sunday night its seeding and opponent in the NCAA tournament, replicated its 18-8 rout of Drew on March 24 by jumping out to an identical 5-0 lead. Lynch scored two goals and assisted on another, and senior attackman Rory Averett also scored twice, which helped put the Gophers at ease.
Drew, the second seed, responded with three goals in a span of 3 minutes, 43 seconds in the second quarter, but Goucher embarked on its own 3-0 spurt spanning the second and third quarters.
However, the Rangers would not go quietly. A pair of unassisted goals from sophomore midfielder Mark Barus and senior midfielder Sean McGowan in the third quarter and a pass from Barus that junior midfielder Steve Gentile converted on an extra-man opportunity helped Drew get to within two at 8-6 with 12:38 left in the fourth period.
But sophomore midfielder Pierce Ingram restored the Gophers' three-goal lead with a shot from the right alley with 10:37 left. And when junior attackman Scott Humphreys scored to trim the deficit down to two with 6:18 remaining, junior attackman Zachary Fratella outraced a defender from the right side of the net to score his third goal of the game and put the finishing touch on the win.
Goucher's ability to answer the Rangers' rallies was crucial, according to Hannan.
"When we needed to make plays, we did," he said. "Early in the game, we made some plays to get a lead, and they snuck back and they were getting momentum. Then we scored two quick ones coming out of halftime. Then they scored on another run to get it to two goals and then we scored to make it three, and that was it. So when we needed plays, our better players stepped up to make plays."
Humphreys paced Drew (13-4) with two goals, and Barus finished with a goal and an assist, but the offense ended all seven possessions in the first quarter with turnovers. Coach Thomas Leanos said it was evident the players were nervous about playing for the program's first tournament championship since 2008.
"Goucher's an experienced team and I think being in this situation was a little new for our guys," said Leanos, whose team set a new school record for wins in a single season. "We didn't even make the playoffs last year, and I think that's one of the reasons our guys were ecstatic to finish second. We were honored to be able to get out here and play Goucher. We thought we had something to prove, but unfortunately, we got off to a slow start. We turned the ball over. They did some things that we expected, but we didn't respond to them very well, and they just played an excellent first quarter and got a lead on us. It's tough to spot a team like this five goals and then try to climb back into it."