Goucher's five-year reign as the Landmark Conference regular-season men's lacrosse champion came to an end when the Gophers fell to visiting Scranton, 8-7, at Gopher Stadium in Towson on Saturday.
The loss was doubly damaging for Goucher (6-7 overall, 4-2 Landmark), which went from potentially being the top seed in the conference tournament to finishing as the No. 3 seed. Susquehanna (9-7, 5-1) — which claimed last year's tournament crown and edged Catholic, 7-6, in overtime Saturday — captured the regular-season title for the first time in school history and will have home-field advantage in the tourney.
The Royals (10-6, 5-1) will be the No. 2 seed and will host the Gophers in a semifinal Wednesday.
Goucher had a chance to tie the game in the final 60 seconds of regulation. Sophomore midfielder Owen Demmerly converted a feed from senior midfielder Steve Patterson with 33.7 seconds remaining to cut a two-goal deficit in half.
Sophomore Tristan Morris won the ensuing faceoff, and senior attackman Dylan Zook had space from the left wing for a shot. But his attempt was blocked by Royals senior defenseman Ryan Saraceni, and the ball rolled to sophomore goalkeeper Nicholas McKaba, allowing Scranton to run out the clock.
"We take a lot from it in the sense that we were down most of the game and we continued to keep ourselves within a position to give ourselves a chance in the end, and that's ultimately what we had," Goucher coach Brian Kelly said. "… We continued to battle and fight and never give up, and that's a testament to the character of the guys on the team."
The Gophers had trouble establishing a consistent push against Scranton's defense. One factor was that the Royals slid from the interior of their defense rather than from adjacent spots, which forced Goucher to adjust.
Junior attackman Sam Morgan paced the offense with a game-high five points on two goals and three assists, but only one other Goucher player finished with more than one point. (Demmerly recorded two goals and one assist.)
"It was extremely disappointing to come that close," Morgan said of being unable to tie the score. "But that was just one play. We had plenty of plays throughout the game that we wish we could've gotten back."
Two of those plays occurred on back-to-back Gophers possessions in the third quarter. McKaba (game-high 11 saves) stoned Morgan from the slot with a stick save and kicked aside a low shot by senior attackman Max Roach when he was alone on the right side of the crease.
"We had two one-on-ones that we did not finish, and that was ultimately the difference," Kelly said. "Their goalie played a really good game. In the third quarter, we had two one-on-ones down there, and he made some big saves. Maybe we get that goal a little earlier, and things turn for us."
Goucher never took a lead in the contest, which was tied just once, 1-1 at the end of the first quarter. The team trimmed the deficit to one five times, including 1:43 into the fourth quarter when Demmerly carried the ball into the offensive end and somehow managed to launch a shot over McKaba as he slipped to the turf to make the score 7-6.
But sophomore midfielder Alec Mikrut completed a hat trick with 4:55 left in regulation, setting up the final hectic moments.
In addition to Mikrut, Scranton got two points each from senior attackman Gus Sturm (two goals) and senior midfielder Matt Tibbitts (one goal and one assist). Senior midfielder John Gregitis, who had entered the game as the team's leader in assists (18) and points (40), was limited to one assist.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun