TOWSON, Md. — After battling through roster size limitations throughout the 2014 season, Goucher will have a new-look, expanded group looking to move the women's lacrosse program up in the Landmark standings this spring.
Nine freshmen join the team from head coach Ceri Miller's first recruiting class, with the Gophers' home and season-opener set for 11 a.m. tomorrow morning against Wesley.
Despite playing the majority of half of its games a player down, Goucher managed a 7-9 record in 2014, including conference victories over Elizabethtown and Merchant Marine. In the end, though, the Gophers were forced to settle for a fifth place Landmark result, finishing one game behind Scranton for the final playoff spot.
"Last year was a tough year but an important year in terms of changing the culture and setting a benchmark for us to improve upon this year," Miller said. "Building up the roster has led to a noticeable increase in the quality of our practices during the preseason and fall ball. It's allowed us to experiment more with tactics and center in on what works best with the individuals that we have."
Last year's senior standouts Erin Reifsnyder and Hannah Mae Brown will not be back, but Goucher still returns three 2014 Second-Team All-Landmark performers in Anneke Ossorio (Lafayette, Colo./Kent Denver School), Stefi Perry (Houston, Texas/Klein) and Kat Carnevale (Portland, Ore./St. Mary's Academy).
Ossorio was a second-team selection for a third consecutive year after tallying 29 goals and 31 draw controls, both of which ranked her third on the team. Her and fellow seniors Rita Meissner (Yonkers, N.Y./Yonkers) and Megan Meluskey (Wilmington, Del./Concord) are among the players who will look to fill the offensive void left by Reifsnyder and Brown, who combined for 116 points last spring.
"I think our seniors will do a good job of helping fill the role of Hannah and Erin," Miller remarked. "And I also think that we have a couple of freshmen who are going to step in right away and have no problem helping us out on both sides of the ball."
Perry and Carnevale were each recognized for their defensive prowess in 2014 after each ranked among the conference leaders in caused turnovers. Perry forced a team-high 24 giveaways to go along with 41 ground balls and 10 goals on the offensive side. Carnevale chipped in 23 caused turnovers and 24 ground balls. Both will look to lead the support of senior goalkeeper Emily Gill (White Hall, Md./North Harford), who made 131 saves while playing every minute in goal for the Gophers.
"Emily has been much improved this preseason," Miller said. "She's playing with a lot of confidence, and her presence in the cage is just a lot more noticeable than it was last year. Part of that has to do with the fact that she has a solid defense in front of her that she knows she can rely upon. I think we have the potential to be pretty strong on that side of the field."
Tomorrow's game is the first of eight non-conference contests scheduled prior to the team's Landmark opener at Merchant Marine on March 21. Miller is looking forward to the challenge that several of those teams are expected to give her young squad.
"We have a couple of people on there that are definitely going to push us," she commented. "They're going to be tough games, but it should help prepare us for the top teams in our conference, and that's ultimately our primary focus."
Six-time champions Catholic and Susquehanna have ruled the Landmark in recent years, with Drew and Scranton consistently competitive as well, and Goucher will need to leap past one of them in the standings for its first playoff berth since 2011. When asked if she thought that was possible, however, Miller was definitive in her response.
"Yes, absolutely," she said. "With the upperclassmen leadership combined with our freshman talent, I think we can definitely make a push for the conference playoffs."