While a good portion of the lacrosse community will pay attention to the No. 1 Loyola-No. 3 Maryland tilt – a rematch of last year’s national title game – there will be another NCAA tournament rematch on Saturday’s schedule.
Washington College will visit Gopher Stadium in Towson to tangle with Goucher. The host Gophers swept the Shoremen twice last season, including a 5-4 decision in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Rookie coach Brian Kelly said he hasn’t had to remind the Goucher players of their success against Washington – ranked No. 15 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association preseason poll – because they’ve already been discussing it amongst themselves.
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“Our guys are smart enough to realize that Washington College has got a tremendous amount of talent,” Kelly said. “They are very deep on the offensive side of the field. … It’s going to be a challenge. They’re ranked in the top 20 for a reason. They’re a good lacrosse team and they’re very well-coached and organized. They’re going to be ready. They know Goucher, and we know them. We’ve played each other for the last several years, and it’s becoming a game that both teams look forward to.”
Shoremen coach Jeff Shirk acknowledged that there is an undercurrent of revenge among the players – one strengthened by reviewing that NCAA tournament loss.
“We pulled the film out from the NCAA tournament game last year, and I was watching some of it, and I know it turned my stomach watching it,” he said. “But to be honest with you, I think guys are just excited because they know Goucher’s a good team and they want to kick this off on the right foot. We’ve got a handful of guys that never experienced that part of it last year. So we’re just trying to stress with the guys that yes, you can remember the past and yes, it can be good motivation for you, but you can’t dwell on it because it’s a new team, a new season and a new go at it.”
Saturday’s contest will be the season opener for Washington, which has only been practicing since Feb 1 as stipulated by the Centennial Conference of which the Shoremen are a member. Shirk conceded that the Gophers’ 13-9 victory over NCAA tournament qualifier Birmingham-Southern last Saturday should be an advantage for the hosts.
“I think that’s always a concern, but I’m pretty confident that we’re prepared, and it’s just a matter of getting our feet wet and getting in the flow of the game and becoming comfortable with it again,” he said. “… It’s one of those things to where two-and-a-half weeks of preseason practice and one scrimmage under our belts, I think guys are really excited, but there are so many unknowns with how the season’s going to play out and what type of team we’re going to see with Goucher because they did graduate quite a few. But they did have a big win in their first game. So I think the mood right now is the guys are excited, but biting at the bit to get started.”