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Goucher lacrosse again battling injuries as season nears

A new year has revived an old issue for Goucher.

The season opener at Hood on Feb. 18 is less than two weeks away, and the Gophers already know that they won't have three players they were counting on until March 1, at the earliest.

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Junior attackman Leo Sementilli registered seven goals and one assist in 11 games last spring before tearing his ACL. Junior midfielder Ruel Ellis scored one goal in his first start before also suffering a season-ending knee injury. And freshman midfielder Matt Woodson is recovering from an ACL injury of his own, which he suffered in his senior year at McDonogh.

A fully healthy roster has been an elusive pursuit for coach Brian Kelly.

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"If we can stay away from the injury bug and get some of these guys back that we know have produced at times on the field and we're a team that's at 100 percent with every available tool at our disposal, then we'll have an opportunity to compete," he said. "I don't want to make excuses, but we've had our fair share of injuries that have hurt our chances the last couple of years. So we're keeping our fingers crossed that we can get through the year healthy. If you look back at our really strong team in 2012 [that won the Landmark Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA postseason] with Kyle Boncaro and Matt Lynch and Rory Averett, those three didn't miss many games in their careers. That's sort of been the difference a little bit."

Injuries have been a common issue for Goucher. In 2015, ACL tears ended seasons for defenseman Nathan Cain and faceoff specialist Tristan Morris, and a nagging hamstring limited attackman Conner Annunziato. Last year, then-junior defenseman Corey Hill joined Sementilli and Ellis on the sideline after rupturing spleen in his third game of the season.

Injuries are a natural occurrence in athletics, but that doesn't make it any less infuriating, Kelly admitted.

"It's extremely frustrating," he said. "You can get paralyzed by the injury bug or you can focus on the guys that you have and make them better. That's where as a young head coach, I may have failed the team a little bit, being off in the corner and licking my wounds as opposed to being mentally tough and saying, 'Alright, next man up. Here are the guys that are playing. Let's focus on you and help you get better.' That's where I may have personally failed the team in the recent past. So we're going to try to learn from our mistakes and be better."

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