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Division III lacrosse preview: Goucher Gophers

An early look at the Gophers as they prepare for the upcoming season

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

10:00 AM EST, February 8, 2013

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Friday’s entry is the sixth installment of a series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun’s lacrosse preview was published today. This is Goucher’s turn.

Overview: The Gophers enjoyed unprecedented success last year. The team went 18-2, captured its second Landmark Conference tournament crown in three seasons, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. But season’s end brought the graduation of three of the program’s most prolific scorers in attackmen Kyle Boncaro and Rory Averett and midfielder Matt Lynch. Then in August, coach Kyle Hannan left to take the same position at Mercer, a Division I school in Georgia. The onus will be on new coach Brian Kelly and the players to continue that level of success into 2013.

Reason for optimism: Graduation wreaked havoc on almost every position on the field – expect for goalkeeper. Senior Connor Mishaw is back after recording a 5.52 goals-against average and a .659 save percentage, and Kelly called Mishaw “hands down, our best player.” Mishaw’s experience and talent will be especially valuable for a close defense that is still sorting itself out. “[W]e’re pretty deep down there,” Kelly said of the close defense. “We’re young, but we’re athletic and anchored by – in my eyes – one of the best goalies in the country. Certainly, he’s going to be there to help bail us out when things break down a little bit.”

Reason for pessimism: With the graduation of Boncaro, Averett and Lynch, the offense lost more than 700 career points. Junior Max Roach (eight goals and four assists) is making the switch from midfield to attack, and he will likely be joined by junior Dylan Zook, a transfer from Stevenson, and sophomore Sam Morgan (6, 11). Senior Zach Fratella (28, 8) is going back to the midfield after being the third attackman and will make up a first line composed of junior Pierce Ingram (23, 2) and junior Steve Patterson, who was primarily a short-stick defensive midfielder in 2012. This year’s offense will be a lot different, Kelly said. “Each year, your team changes,” he said. “We’re not continually staying the same and trying to fit guys that don’t fit into the system. So we do have to tweak some things. We’re going to change some things offensively with some of our sets that we operate out of, but the overall concept does not change. We’re really going to try to fit the system to our individual strengths.”

Keep an eye on: The faceoff position didn’t escape graduation’s reach as D.J. Shelton left after winning 53.7 percent (182-of-339) and collecting 86 groundballs. Sophomore Tristan Morris is slated to open the season as the starter, and sophomore Zach Wrisk will get some opportunities, and although they combined for just 2-of-4 wins last year, Kelly is optimistic that they can fill the void. “He’s really fast at the X, and he’s got a great stick,” Kelly said of Morris. “So he’s actually going to be not your traditional face-off, get-off guy. Hopefully, he’ll play a little bit for us at both ends of the field. And then we’ve got a young man, Zach Wrisk, and he’s probably our No. 2 faceoff guy.”

What he said: Landmark Conference opponents like Drew and Scranton must be rubbing their hands in glee and chomping at the bit for a chance to knock Goucher from the top of the league. But Kelly said he and the players don’t intend to give up their crown without a fight. In fact, Kelly – who was a midfielder for Johns Hopkins in 1990, 1992 and 1993 – said he has higher goals. “I didn’t win a national championship at Hopkins,” he said. “I was a part of that dark period, and that’s one thing that I want to do. I want to win a national championship and I think location-wise, with where we are, I think we’re in a really good spot to attract some talented athletes from all over the country and capitalize on the explosion on the game of lacrosse. … So our goal in 2013 is to repeat as Landmark champions – something that no other team at Goucher has done – and to go deeper in the NCAA tournament. We want to keep taking that next step. Even with the losses, I do feel that we have the talent to do that.”