TOWSON, Md. — The Landmark Conference's head coaches have voted and they are picking Goucher to capture another conference championship in 2014.
The Gophers, who launch their season Washington (Md.) on February 22, were chosen by three of the six opposing head coaches (head coaches could not vote for their own team) to win a third Landmark title this season and garnered 42 points to sit atop the conference's preseason poll for the fourth consecutive year. Susquehanna received two of the remaining first-place votes and 37 points to finish second in the annual poll.
Picked third in the poll was the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which received one first-place vote and 35 points, while Scranton comes in at No. 4 with 34 points. Drew, at No. 5, picked up the remaining first-place vote and 30 points. Rounding out the poll are Catholic in sixth place (24 points) and Washington & Jefferson in seventh (15 points).
Catholic has the honor of being the first Landmark Conference team to play a game this season as the Cardinals open up tonight against Southern Virginia. All seven Landmark teams will be in action by February 26.
"We hope we live up to the expectations the coaches have for us because one of our top goals each and every season is to win the Landmark Conference championship," said Brian Kelly, now in his second season as head coach at Goucher. "But we are well aware that we haven't won a thing just by being picked to win. We're going to have to go out and earn it on the field against some very worthy opponents. The Landmark Conference seems to be getting better and better every year. We're anxious to get the season under way."
The top four teams in the final regular season standings qualify for the Landmark Conference postseason tournament. The top two seeds will host semifinals on April 30; the highest remaining seed will have home-field advantage in the championship game, scheduled for May 3.
The conference champion will receive an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Gophers captured their first Landmark title in 2010, which was the 19th year of existence for the school's men's lacrosse program. Two years later, they again laid claim to supremacy in the Landmark, going undefeated in conference play during the regular season. As the No. 1 seed in the conference's postseason tournament, Goucher defeated Catholic, 13-6, in the semifinals and Drew, 10-7, in the finals. That put the Gophers back into the NCAA Division III Championships where, in the opening round, they knocked off Washington (Md.) for the program's first victory in an NCAA postseason tournament. The 5-4 win over the Shoremen earned Goucher a shot at Salisbury in the second round and the eventual national champions downed the Gophers, 12-4.
Goucher, which is 32-3 all-time in Landmark Conference contests, went 6-0 in league play again last season, but was upset in the semifinals by Merchant Marine, 6-5.