Goucher’s season could have ended literally and metaphorically on April 14 when sophomore midfielder Matthew Gabriel died of injuries he suffered during a hit-and-run the day before.
But once he had the backing of the Gabriel family, coach Brian Kelly knew the campaign would go on. What he was uncertain of was whether the same could be said about the team.
“Immediately following with the Catholic game [on April 17], we were purely playing off of emotion and energy,” he recalled. “And then a couple weeks later, I hadn’t slept in a couple weeks and guys were dealing with it in their own ways and having difficulties and then you throw in the pressures of school and those things, that whole event – as tragic as it is and was – definitely had an impact on all of us.”
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But the Gophers (7-8 overall and 4-2 in the Landmark Conference) responded as best as their supporters could have hoped. They finished third in the league and avenged a loss in the regular-season finale to Scranton by knocking off the Royals in the conference tournament semifinals. (They lost, 9-6, to Susquehanna in the title game.)
The team honored Gabriel by wearing white T-shirts with the No. 3 – his jersey number on the back – and painting “MG3” behind one end of Gopher Stadium in Towson. But Kelly speculated that the players honored their fallen teammate even more with their determination and strength in the face of tragedy.
“It’s a true testament to their character and their desire to show up every single day and practice and play hard,” Kelly said. “Then ultimately, to have to go through the loss of their teammate and take the field a couple days later with all of that grief and everything that they were dealing with and to put forth the effort that they did against Catholic, that really spoke to the characters of the guys on the team. So I’m super proud of that team. Like I told the team, we’re forever bonded by what we went through this year, and there will never be another 2014 Goucher lacrosse team.”