TOWSON, Md. — Just three days before Goucher is scheduled to open its 2015 season against Millsaps, the Landmark Conference released its preseason poll of head coaches this morning.
With two of the seven opposing head coaches (coaches could not vote for their own team) picking the Gophers to be crowned Landmark champions this year, the poll has head coach Brian Kelly's squad finishing in third place behind Susquehanna and Scranton.
The Crusaders, who repeated as Landmark champions in 2014 by defeating the Gophers, 9-6, in the finals of the conference's postseason tournament, received four first-place votes and 64 points to sit atop the annual poll. The Royals received the remaining two first-place votes and 56 points to grab the No. 2 spot.
Goucher came in at No. 3 with 52 points.
The fourth and final spot in the Landmark playoffs this season, according to the coaches poll, will go to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which picked up 28 points. Rounding out the poll are Elizabethtown at No. 5 with 25 points, Drew at No. 6 (21 points), Catholic at No. 7 (19) and Washington & Jefferson at No. 8 (7).
"As the two-time defending champion, Susquehanna deserves to be picked to win the Landmark in 2015," Kelly said following release of the poll. "Still, they'll have to get past some very good teams to win a third title in a row. The Landmark keeps getting a little better year after year.
"The guys won't like being picked to finish third. That will be a little extra motivation for them once we get into our conference schedule."
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 29; the highest remaining seed will have home-field advantage in the championship game, scheduled for May 2.
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 is 36-5 all-time in Landmark Conference contests, but went 4-2 in league play last season.