Tuesday's entry is the sixth installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the eight Division III programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun's lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 17. This is Goucher's turn. (Coach Kyle Hannan could not be reached for comment.)
Overview: The Gophers qualified for the Landmark Conference Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, but unlike 2010, their bid for the championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament was denied when Scranton pulled off a 12-8 upset in the conference final. It was a disappointing finish for Goucher, but with just one starter having graduated, the team appears well-stocked for a shot at redemption.
Reason for optimism: An offense that averaged 10.7 goals per game last year looks poised to raise that average. Attackmen Rory Averett (53 goals and 12 assists) and Kyle Boncaro (28, 28) and midfielder Matt Lynch (30, 26) are all seniors. Two starting midfielders in junior Zach Fratella (28, 12) and sophomore Pierce Ingram (9, 2) also return, and players like sophomore attackman Max Roach (11, 2) and sophomore midfielder George Skelos (5, 7) and junior midfielder John Curry (5, 2) are ready to contribute.
Reason for pessimism: As powerful as that offense looks, the players on that side of the field can't really do much if they don't get the ball. That was an issue last spring as the Gophers won just 35.5 percent of their faceoffs (130-of-366). Five different players took at least 37 draws each with senior defenseman D.J. Shelton enjoying the most success (43.3 percent on 42-of-97). Freshmen Tristan Morris and David Waligurski should bolster the unit, but can they fare better than their older, more experienced teammates?
Keep an eye on: A defense that surrendered 7.7 goals per game in 2011 welcomes back a pair of starting defensemen in junior Bryce Carson (47 groundballs and 19 caused turnovers) and senior Heath Thumel (12, 11) and junior goalkeeper Conor Mishaw (7.22 goals-against average and .610 save percentage). Junior long-stick midfielder Paul Taylor (57, 37) could be a candidate to shift to close defense with either senior Tom Stabler or freshman Ethan Haddaway filling Taylor's spot. How the defense gels without defenseman Justin Dunn (53, 46) could determine how successful Goucher is.