In the span of four days, Goucher went from absorbing the disappointment of losing to Landmark Conference rival Scranton to having the last word.
After an 8-7 setback to the Royals on Saturday that prevented the Gophers from capturing the regular-season championship and the top seed in the league tournament, they returned the favor by knocking off Scranton, 8-4, in a tournament semifinal Wednesday night.
The biggest difference, according to Goucher coach Brian Kelly, was the team’s improved effort on defense.
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“On Saturday, we had given up some goals in transition, and uncharacteristically, our defense got a little anxious at times and we gave up three goals in transition,” he said on Thursday morning. “Watching the film, we had some other breakdowns across the field that we tried to eliminate. So we didn’t give up any transition goals last night and pretty much played a game that was six-on-six on both ends of the field. … It came down to the one-on-one matchups, and I think we did a good job for the most part winning the one-on-one battles across the field.”
The Gophers (7-7) did a much better job against Scranton sophomore midfielder Alec Mikrut, who went from three goals on Saturday to just one Wednesday. And the Royals starting attack totaled just one goal after combining for three on Saturday.
“I think that was definitely a game where they rose to the challenge,” Kelly said of the team’s defensive performance. “Obviously, it was a team that had just beaten us and offensively scored eight goals. So they were desperately intent on putting together a more disciplined effort, not flying up the field to guys at 20 yards and putting themselves in a position where they could stay compact and not be so spread out across the field, which on Saturday allowed Scranton some opportunities. Last night, they were definitely more disciplined and just played a very solid game all across the board.”
Goucher earned the right to challenge top-seeded and reigning tournament champion Susquehanna in Saturday’s title game. The Gophers tagged the Crusaders with their only loss in the conference with a 13-7 decision on April 5.
“Certainly it’s something we can look back on and see the things that we did well,” he said. “But they’re a different team. It’s a month later and they’ve won four straight games, and they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. They’re the defending champions, and we’re going to their home field. So there’s a lot of things to really be cautious about. It was a month ago. We’re a different team, and they’re a different team.”