Goucher's struggles on defense this past spring could be traced to several sources, but one important factor may have been an upheaval in personnel.
Before the season even began, the team learned that starting defenseman Paul Taylor, who had recorded 68 ground balls and 44 caused turnovers in 2012, had exhausted his eligibility. Sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder David Waligurski (18 GB, 5 CT) tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the fall and would sit out the entire campaign. And a few others were ruled academically ineligible.
So perhaps it should not come as a shock that the defense surrendered 9.2 goals per game this past season – the most permitted by the unit since at least 2006. That roster turnover meant that coach Brian Kelly had to turn to younger, inexperienced players to take the field sooner than the coaching staff had expected.
"[W]e were behind the eight-ball early and often, playing a really tough schedule," Kelly said. "But these young men – the freshmen and sophomores that were asked to step up because of those players not being with us – it's really going to point to hopefully success in the future for us. There was that adversity that we had to overcome. We were expected to be pretty deep on that end of the field and due to the unfortunate circumstances of having ineligible players, we were then really young on the defensive end. We gave up a lot of goals and we had some new guys out there that were trying to figure out how to play the game at the college level and the pace of play that a Washington College and Stevenson play at. It's a long way from high school lacrosse to play at the speed that Stevenson plays at and Washington College plays at and Gettysburg plays at. We had a lot to deal with, but as the season wore on and guys got more experience, they became more comfortable with the speed that the game was played at."
The expectation for 2014 is that Waligurski will return and so will sophomore long-stick midfielder Ethan Hardaway (35 GB, 17 CT), who sat out the year for unspecified reasons. Those two paired with freshmen defensemen Andrew Foster (17 GB, 16 CT) and Nathan Cain (21 GB, 13 CT) and freshman long-stick midfielder Blake Russell (31 GB, 8 CT) should fortify the defense, which will be seeking a new starter in the cage after the graduation of Connor Mishaw (9.17 goals-against average and .571 save percentage).
Kelly sounded confident that the experience the younger players cultivated from this past season will aid their development.
"We've got some young guys a lot of quality minutes and experience down the stretch," he said. "… So a highlight from that would be that we were able to get a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the defensive end on the field a lot of experience that will hopefully help us in the future."