When Goucher opened the season with a 13-9 victory over Birmingham-Southern, the initial thought was that the team that had captured two of the last three Landmark Conference tournaments might be able to extend that success under Kyle Hannan – who left for Division I Mercer – into 2013.
The Gophers then dropped their next six contests before turning the tide with a 5-1 record over their last six games, and they are now tied with Scranton for first place in the conference with identical 4-0 marks. It’s been quite a reversal, but one that did not necessarily shock current coach Brian Kelly.
“We’re really young,” he said Wednesday morning. “We’ve got a lot of freshman playing in some spots and sophomores that had not played significant minutes for us because we had depth in a lot of positions. With 13 games into a 15-game season, guys are starting to grow up and have really had experience in the system. They’re not young anymore. They’re starting to grow up and we’re getting some better play. It helps we’re not playing top 20 teams every week, too. … Four of those six losses were to some really, really strong competition, but ultimately, that helped us for the conference stretch. We’re starting to grow up and starting to execute and play better lacrosse.”
Goucher’s 1-6 start was not unexpected considering the schedule. The team fell to three ranked opponents in Washington College, Gettysburg and Stevenson and lost to a Mary Washington squad later joined the top 20.
It was a far cry from last year’s schedule when the Gophers opened the season with a 27-7 demolition of Southwestern and a 30-2 thrashing of Dallas and later collected wins against Randolph-Macon, Frostburg State and Lasell.
“It’s a just a different start to the schedule and we kept the focus on the theory that our goals were still out there,” Kelly said. “Although we went 1-6 to start the year, we didn’t lose the chance to win the conference championship. So that was really our focus. … We want to win the conference championship and get an opportunity to play some of those teams that we played earlier in the year in the NCAA tournament.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun