TOWSON, Md. — Goucher saved its best performance of the regular season for when it mattered most, and as a result the Gophers are going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Rita Meissner (Yonkers, N.Y./Yonkers) scored four goals on Senior Day, while Jojo Franklin (Denver, Colo./Kent Denver School) and Stefi Perry (Houston, Texas/Klein) each added three goals and an assist to help Goucher clinch the No. 4 seed with a 12-10 victory over Drew this afternoon. The Gophers, who committed a season-low nine turnovers, will now travel to Catholic for a Landmark semifinal matchup at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
"They played incredibly well as a team today," head coach Ceri Miller said. "They executed the game plan exactly how we needed them to. We controlled the draw early on, which helped us set the tone on offense, and then the defense came up with some big saves late."
Both teams entered today's contest knowing that the winner would clinch a playoff spot while the loser would be eliminated from contention. Franklin opened up the scoring after only 25 seconds, but the Rangers (9-6, 3-3 Landmark) responded with three unanswered goals to open up a 3-1 lead.
Goucher (11-6, 3-3 Landmark) twice answered with goals to get the deficit down to one, with Perry and Jessica Borucki (Westminster, Md./North Carroll) firing in unassisted strikes, but both times the Rangers came back with a goal of their own to restore their multiple-goal advantage.
Franklin's second marker with 10:07 left on the clock began what would turn out to be a 7-1 scoring run for the Gophers which allowed them to assume control of the game.
Perry and Meissner followed Franklin's strike with goals to give Goucher its first lead at 6-5. A man-up tally from Drew's Maddie Spiess leveled things back up, but Franklin completed a four-point first half with another unassisted goal with 2:36 remaining.
That gave the Gophers the edge heading into the second half, and their defense held the Rangers off the scoreboard for the first 15 minutes after the intermission. Meissner chipped in two goals during that stretch, while Perry added her third strike to open up a four-goal margin.
After Drew struck twice to make it 10-8, Sophie Smith (Lawrenceville, N.J./Madison) and Meissner sealed the playoff berth with back-to-back goals. Meissner final marker, a free position conversion with 8:09 left, was also the 100th point of her Goucher career. In addition to the four goals, she led the team with a career-high six draw controls and three ground balls.
"Rita had probably the game of her career today," Miller remarked. "She's really stepped up on the draws lately. She has a quick first step, and was able to box people out effectively today. She just played really well overall."
The normally high-powered Drew offense was held to 10 goals, which tied a season-low. Four of the Rangers 12 turnovers were forced by Perry, and the Gophers finished with a 14-9 edge in ground balls.
Senior Emily Gill (White Hall, Md./North Harford) made five saves to register her 11th victory of the season in goal. The last of those stops was her 100th of the spring. Goucher also recognized fellow seniors Anneke Ossorio (Lafayette, Colo./Kent Denver School) and Megan Meluskey (Wilmington, Del./Concord) prior to their final home game on Beldon Field (picture below).
Today's victory was the first for the Gophers over the Rangers since a 13-10 win in the 2008 Landmark semifinals, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the series.
Goucher will now look ahead to a rematch with top-seeded Catholic in this year's semis. The Cardinals (12-3, 6-0 Landmark) are currently ranked No. 13 in the nation, and they will enter on a four-game winning streak.
"We'll give the girls the weekend to enjoy this win, and then we start with a game plan for Catholic on Monday," Miller said. "We've obviously seen them before. I don't think we played our best when we faced them last time, so I think it will be a good game on Wednesday.