Brian Kelly acknowledged he is not the type to put too much emphasis on rankings. So the news that Goucher men’s lacrosse program led the Landmark Conference this past spring in caused turnovers per game at 10.4 did not elicit that much of a reaction from the sixth-year head coach.
“I don’t think it was anything intentional,” he said. “You’re always going out there and looking to be aggressive defensively.”
The Gophers’ average in takeaways marked their highest rate since 2012 when that team finished with 12.8 caused turnovers per game. Kelly credited the 2018 team’s success to what he described as a version of the 10-man ride that uses the goalkeeper to range out of the cage and mark an opposing attackman, thereby making it difficult for an opponent to clear the ball from defense to offense.
“We put an emphasis on trying to ride the ball back,” said Kelly, who estimated that the ride contributed to 30 to 40 percent of the caused turnovers. “When we turn it over on the offensive end or there’s a shot and a save, we’re pretty aggressive in the sense that we want to get the ball back, and I think that gives our defenders an opportunity in a transition environment to be more aggressive and have the ability to cause some turnovers. At various points in time, we had a really strong ride that was pretty successful for us and allowed us to cause some turnovers. So that was a component.”
Senior defenseman Peter Cost, who led Goucher in caused turnovers with 31 and ranked third in the league with 1.7 takeaways per game, personified the team’s penchant for forcing errors. Kelly also noted that it helped to have an athletic goalie like senior Matt Messerle, who caused eight turnovers and ranked second among the Gophers in ground balls with 41.
“He did have the ability to get out of the goal, and he was fairly athletic and was in a position that he did help us in that regard,” Kelly said. “And when the ball was on the ground, he had the ability to pick it up and a good enough stick to get it to a teammate to make sure that we were able to finish that component of the game and get the ball back to our offensive end.”