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Susquehanna beats Goucher in key Landmark men's lacrosse matchup

A startling pregame injury to junior short-stick defensive midfielder Michael Morgan took some wind out of the sails of the Goucher men's lacrosse team. And then visiting Susquehanna further demoralized the Gophers.

The Crusaders scored the game's first three goals and then turned to goalkeeper Jared Knowlton to maintain their advantage en route to a 9-4 victory over Goucher in a Landmark Conference game in front of an announced 275 at Gopher Stadium in Towson on Friday afternoon.

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Susquehanna has won two consecutive meetings with the Gophers after dropping the first eight. The Crusaders took a 9-6 victory in the league tournament final on May 3, 2014.

With the win, Susquehanna improved to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the Landmark. For now, the team is in sole possession of second place, just a half-game behind league-leading Elizabethtown (9-2, 3-0).

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Goucher dropped to 7-4, 2-2, falling into a fourth-place tie with Catholic (7-4, 2-2). The Gophers have just three league games left to qualify for eight Landmark Conference tournaments in eight years.

"Fortunately, it's the first weekend in April, and we've got three more games ahead of us," Goucher coach Brian Kelly said. "It's not going to be an easy road, and that's why today was a big one. But we'll go back to work on Monday and get better and try to keep that string alive of making the playoffs."

The afternoon began ominously when Morgan took a shot to his head during warm-ups. Kelly said Morgan never lost consciousness, but complained of numbness in his extremities. Medical staff immobilized his head and neck until he could be taken off on a stretcher, and the start of the contest was delayed for 25 minutes.

"I think there was definitely an emotional letdown," Kelly said. "The guy who shot the ball was crying and upset and was certainly feeling for his teammate and his part in it. That certainly has an impact. It's not the way you typically go into a game."

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Freshman Jake Purnell beat Gophers junior Andrew Schwartz cleanly on the opening faceoff and sprinted to the slot where he bounced a shot into the left side of the net to give Susquehanna a 1-0 lead just seven seconds into the contest.

The Crusaders stretched their advantage to 2-0 when junior attackman Nick Reardon curled around the right post to beat Goucher senior goalie Karl Wiszumerski with 9:41 left in the first quarter.

Susquehanna took a 3-0 lead on a heady play by Knowlton. Spotting Wiszumerski out of the cage with the Gophers employing a 10-man ride to disrupt a clearing attempt, Knowlton launched a pass that found senior attackman Phil Lapone behind the defense, and he scored into an empty net with 7:17 remaining.

Goucher did shave the deficit down to one on goals from junior attackman Conner Annunziato with 77 seconds left in the first quarter and senior midfielder Gavin Wilson on an extra-man opportunity with 8:11 left in the second.

But the Crusaders scored four straight goals spanning the second and third quarters to extend an advantage the Gophers did not seriously threaten.

Goucher was kept off the scoreboard for 25:16 stretching over the final three periods because of Knowlton, who made 18 saves including eight in the third quarter. Senior attackman Sam Morgan, who registered a goal and an assist, said the Gophers didn't severely test Knowlton, who entered the contest ranked 18th in Division III in goals-against average (6.3) and 43rd in save percentage (.597).

"We just shot it right into his stick a lot of the time," Morgan said. "He made a couple good saves, but we really just made him look better than he actually was."

Susquehanna's Reardon led all scorers with five points on three goals and two assists, and Lapone added one goal and two assists. Junior midfielder Jake Calder, a Lutherville resident and Dulaney graduate, scored two goals.

Crusaders coach Stewart Moan said the team was pleased to leave with the win.

"I think this was critical for us," he said. "We already have a loss against [Elizabethtown]. To echo Coach Kelly, the team that lost this game kind of has its back against the wall, but still has a chance to play. The team that wins this game has a little bit of an easier road, but it's still a long road to go. To win a conference game on the road against an outstanding Goucher team, it's a good win."

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