In a nip-and-tuck game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, Goucher dropped a frustrating 8-7 decision to Landmark Conference rival Scranton on Saturday at Gopher Stadium in Towson.

The reward for both teams is that they will meet in three days in a league tournament semifinal on Wednesday.

The difference is that the Gophers (6-7 overall and 4-2 in the conference) will be the away team as they take to the road against the Royals (10-6, 5-1). Goucher went from potentially capturing its sixth consecutive regular-season title and the top seed to the No. 3 seed, but coach Brian Kelly pointed out that the team still has a chance to extend its season.

“Ultimately, we’re still playing,” he said. “Last year, we were the No. 1 seed and we lost in the first round. We’re excited for the opportunity to play another game. We still have a game on Wednesday against Scranton, and we feel like we know who they are as a team and their personnel and they know who we are. It’s just going to come down to who wins more one-on-one battles across the field.”

Junior attackman Sam Morgan, who paced the offense with five points on two goals and three assists, said the freshness of Saturday’s loss won’t recede too quickly for the players.

“I think it helps a lot,” he said. “I’d much rather be an underdog than be the one expecting to win. It’s just not the right venue we wanted to play in. I’d rather not travel three hours to play them, especially in the middle of a school week.”

Circling back to Three Things to Watch

1) Scranton’s defense as good as advertised. Goucher was held below its season average of 12.6 against conference opponents, and Morgan said the offense did not adapt to the Royals’ decision to slide from the interior of their defense instead of adjacent spots until late in the second quarter. Kelly is hopeful that Saturday’s offensive display will be an anomaly. 

“I’d like to think that offensively we’ve progressed. But if you score seven goals, it’s tough to win a lacrosse game,” he said. “Credit them. Their defense was great. … We knew it was going to be a struggle, but we felt confident in our offensive players and ultimately, their goalie finished with 11 saves. Maybe we get one or two of those by him, and it’s a different result.”

2) Scranton’s midfield put forth uneven showing. The Royals have been led by senior midfielder John Gregitis, who entered the contest leading the team in assists (18) and points (40). But the Gophers used midfielders Steve Patterson and Zach Wrisk (Howard) to confine Gregitis to zero goals on 10 shots and a lone assist. Meanwhile, sophomore midfielder Alec Mikrut, who had scored a team-high 25 goals, scored three times, confirming Kelly’s decision to pole Mikrut with sophomore long-stick midfielder Ethan Haddaway (Mount St. Joseph).

“We felt he was their most dangerous guy, and he proved it,” Kelly said. “He scored three goals on us. Gregitis is a great player, but we felt like Steve Patterson with the combination of Zach Wrisk could do a decent enough job on him to at least hold him to a goal or two. So to hold him to zero, it’s a win.”

3) Goucher’s Tristan Morris holds his own. Scranton boasted one of the best faceoff specialists in the country in Matt Finor, a junior who ranked fifth in Division III with a 69.3 success rate (183 of 264). And after winning 6 of 9 draws in the first half, Finor appeared to be on his way to another dominant showing. But Morris, a sophomore, won 6 of 10 in the second half to draw the Gophers to a respectable 9 of 19 for the game. Kelly said he wasn’t surprised by Morris’ outing, which included collecting a game-best seven ground balls to Finor’s six.

“We trusted in Tristan,” Kelly said. “… He got it back to close to an even battle. So we feel good about where we are as a team heading into Wednesday.”