TOWSON, Md. — Once Britt Shortle (Lake Mary, Fla./Trinity Preparatory School) defeated C.J. Widdifield 6-1, 6-1 at No. 6 and Josh Goldberg (Centreville, Md./Queen Anne's County) completed his 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Giovanni Lombardi at No. 5, all Goucher needed to do today to put away Moravian and advance to the finals of the 2015 Landmark Conference playoffs was to win one of the remaining four singles matches.
Trouble is, the Greyhounds took the opening set in all four matches.
The second-seeded Gophers did come back to win the second set in three of the matches, and Joey Caracappa (Wesley Chapel, Fla./Saddlebrook Preparatory School) and Seth Hoesman (Ellicott City, Md./Howard) both had also jumped out to early leads in the third set, but the first player to come all the way back from being down a set to win was Jack Hodges (London, England/Shrewsbury School) at No. 3. His 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Lewis Cooper ended the tournament's semifinal match because it provided head coach Brendan Kincaid's squad with an insurmountable 5-1 lead.
"They certainly came to play and forced us to raise our game to a higher level," Kincaid said of Moravian, which suffered a 7-2 setback when the two teams met during the regular season. "We were fortunate to win this match because Moravian is a tough team to beat and was very tough today. We played four freshmen and I imagine that is part of the reason we struggled some early in both doubles and singles."
The Gophers (14-5) were down by at least three games at some point in all three doubles matches. Hodges and Midori Fujitani (Tokyo, Japan/International School Bangkok) overcame a 4-1 deficit to knock off Cooper and Lombardi, 8-6, at No. 2, and Goldberg and Shortle dropped the first three games at No. 3 only to pull out an 8-5 win over Dan Schmucker and David Wilson.
A 5-1 hole proved to be too big for Hoesman and Caracappa to dig out of at first doubles, although they did close to within 7-6 before Matt Tuorto and John Wylie won the final game to earn a point for the Greyhounds (11-7).
When the match was called, Caracappa had gone ahead of Tuorto at first singles 2-6, 6-3, 4-3, and Hoesman was up 2-6, 7-6 (4), 2-1 on Wylie at No. 2. At No. 4, Schmucker won the first set against Fujitani 7-6 (5) and the second set was knotted up at 5-5.
The win advances the Gophers to the Landmark championship match where Juniata awaits. The Eagles, the tournament's No. 1 seed, were victorious in today's other semifinal as they hammered the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 5-0, and will host the championship match Saturday at 1 p.m.
It will be Goucher's first appearance in the championship match in the eight-year history of the Landmark Conference.