TOWSON, Md. – On a Friday night in front of a sold out crowd at Beldon Field, the Goucher men's soccer team kicked off its Landmark Conference schedule in style. The Gophers managed a goal in each half to grab a 2-0 victory over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, picking up their first-ever conference win over the Mariners in the process.
"We always talk about effort, caring, being committed and playing for each other," head coach Bryan Laut said. "And that's what they did tonight. They worked hard, put themselves in good positions, and when we had opportunities we were able to make plays."
An own goal in the first half and a penalty kick from Nate Margolis (Ivyland, Pa./Council Rock North) in the second half made the difference for the Gophers (6-3-1, 1-0 Landmark), who improved to 4-1 at home this season. USMMA (4-5-1, 1-1 Landmark) lost for the first time in four matches.
Goucher controlled possession for a majority of the first half. Though the Gophers only managed two shots from that possession, one of those resulted in a goal, as a cross from Tate Becker (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch) was directed into the goal by a Mariner defender in the 18th minute.
USMMA held a 5-2 shots advantage in the opening 45, but just one of those shots made it to goalkeeper Nicholas Stolarz (Clark, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson), as the Goucher defense limited the number of quality scoring chances.
"Getting Brandon Weiner (Derwood, Md./Col. Zadok A. Magruder) back has been huge, and Jeremy Hardy (Brooklyn, N.Y./The Beacon School) has stepped up as well," Laut said of the backline. "But it's been a total team effort. Our guys have been smart about being in the right spots and staying disciplined. We're making it difficult for people."
The Mariners intensified their pressure after the intermission, generating eight more shots, including five on goal. Stolarz was up to the task, however, registering his first career collegiate shutout and winning his third game of the season.
Margolis gave his freshman goalie some insurance in the 80th minute. His pressure forced USMMA goalie Gary Poulin to foul him in the box, and the junior forward converted the resulting penalty kick for his team-leading fourth goal of the season, all of which have come on PKs.
Goucher moves to 1-0 in the Landmark Conference for the first time since joining the league in 2007. The Gophers will look to keep up the momentum next Saturday when they host preseason conference favorite Scranton at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday.
"I was thrilled with the effort tonight," Laut concluded. "We have a great group of guys who really care. If we keep playing like this, we're going to be a tough team to beat down the road."