April 21, 2014

MD3 Notebook: Washington College Finds Rallying Cry

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Washington College junior Grant Hughes (above) suffered a broken femur late in the Gettysburg game that gave the Shoremen the top seed in the upcoming Centennial tournament. It's a blow to the WAC offense, but will be a rallying cry for the team going forward according to head coach Jeff Shirk. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Over the past 15 meetings spanning 10 seasons, Gettysburg has owned Washington College. Home or away and in good weather or bad, when the Bullets and Shoremen connected over the past decade, it was sad times in Chestertown.

It was a streak so complete that it was starting to affect the Geese's collective psyche.

"Gettysburg was the only team on the schedule that I had yet to have a win against," said fourth-year head coach Jeff Shirk. "So if it weighed on my mind for the last four years, it weighed on the program's mind for the last 10 years. It was definitely something that got talked about, and it was definitely something that we talked to our guys about to make sure that there weren't any mental blocks going in."

With a dominating performance that featured 60-26 advantage in shots, a 17-for-23 performance at the dot and a 43-20 bulge in ground balls, Washington College snapped the skid with a 13-8 victory over Gettysburg on Saturday.

"It was good to get the monkey off our backs and hopefully we're not talking about it anymore," Shirk said with a laugh.

Shirk said the struggles against the Bullets during his time at Washington can be chalked up to numerous factors, and part of the equation is his evolution as a coach. With a senior-laden team and an experienced staff, Shirk and his assistants handle stressful situations a little differently than they once did.

"One of the biggest benefits of this group, and maybe due to my maturity as a coach, is we aren't getting after the guys and showing stress on the sidelines," said Shirk, who admitted that there were times against Gettysburg on Saturday when he was getting restless. "It was conversations and talking things through. You always carry that stress as the coach, but I don't think the guys were worried about it. If we made a mistake, they worked hard to make the play."

The win had the added bonus of giving Washington College the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Centennial tournament, which will begin with the semifinals on Wednesday, May 30. It's the second time the Shoremen have been the top seed under Shirk's watch, but WAC is still searching for the first league title since 2003.

There is still the regular season finale against Swarthmore remaining – a prototypical trap game with the Garnet being able to make their season by beating a Top 5 team with nothing on the line. Any chance Swarthmore had of pulling the stunner disappeared in the final minute of the Gettysburg game. With the game in hand, junior middie Grant Hughes, who was second on the team in goals (26) and points (32), was hit by a Bullets defender, leaving Hughes with a season-ending broken femur.

"We knew it was bad," Shirk said.

It leaves a whole in the Shoremen offense, but it has refocused the entire team for remainder of the season. There is a team rule that each player must email his grades for the week to one of the assistant coaches by 10 p.m. on Sunday. When the email from Hughes showed up on time despite him being hours removed from surgery where a metal bar was placed in his leg, the coaching staff got the message, as well.

"We're not going to let [Swarthmore] be a trap game," Shirk said. "The guys have already started to rally around Grant and that's turned into our season rallying cry. He's such a great kid and a hard worker. He found a way to get his grades in despite the fact we would have let it slide. That's the kind of kid he is. I think the guys are extra motivated because of what happened to Grant, and what they want to do this season."

Lacrosse Magazine's Player of the Week

Harrison Cotter, Jr., M – Endicott
The Gulls appear to be in complete control of the Commonwealth Coast Conference, but non-league games against power conference opponents pay off when it comes to seeding. Thanks to seven goals and an assist from Cotter, Endicott routed Bowdoin, 18-10, and further strengthened their postseason resume.

"Harry had a big week against conference rival Western New England and NESCAC foe Bowdoin," said Endicott head coach Sean Quirk. "Harry's week was a true reflection of the work he had been putting in all year. We have a bakery-balanced offense; we don't depend on one or two guys. This happened to be Harry's week that he went off."

Honor Roll

Chris Annunciata (Plymouth State), Nick Baxter (Dickinson), Derek Bertolini (Conn. College), Jon Broome (Middlebury), Scott Brown (Nazareth), Mitch Burgin (Adrian), Angelo Carbonara (Elmhurst), Anthony Carpenter (Kean), Alex Castronovo (RPI), Joe Chiara (Geneseo), Andrew Clemens (Milwaukee Engineering), Zach Davidson (Castleton), Tyler Davis (York), Thomas Deane (Guilford), Tyler Dowing (Southwestern), Kevin Gleason (Augustana), John Goracy (Clark), Robert Hart (Keene State), Casey Jackson (RIT), Adam Knapton (Western N.E.), Austin Lauzier (Emmanuel), Cam Lewis (Washington & Lee), Jake Linkletter (Maine-Farmington), Alex Lopez (Kenyon), Spenser Love (Frostburg State), Ryon Lynch (Springfield), Mike Marone (Drew), Brandon Maxson (Cazenovia), Aaron Murphy (Lynchburg), Brian Neff (Ursinus), Max Obriecht (Aurora), Mikey O'Neal (Otterbein), Carmen Papa (Thiel), Luke Phipps (Salisbury), Christian Reiller (Utica), Adam Reynolds (SUNYIT), Nick Rossi (St. John Fisher), Andrew Senft (Ferrum), Cameron Setian (Franklin & Marshall), Brandon Sewell (Huntingdon), Brendan Shannon (Morrisville State), Mike Soumekh (Denison), Harri Stolzenberg (MIT), Tim Urso (Albion), Alex Wagman (Oberlin), David Walen (Lasell), Patton Watkins (Tufts).

Pool Duty

Pool B
1. Sewanee (11-3)
2. Whittier (6-3)
3. Eastern (11-4)
4. Centre (11-3)
5. Colorado College (8-5)

Pool C
1. Union (11-2)
2. York (14-3)
3. Amherst (11-3)
4. Mary Washington (13-2)
5. Franklin & Marshall (11-3)

Slides & Rides

- All four of the top seeds advanced to the semifinals of the SAA conference tournament, and the semifinals will be held at Sewanee thanks to the Tigers' 1-0 victory over Oglethorpe. The Stormy Petrels, which have 17 players listed on their rosters, did not have enough healthy players for the game, so they had to forfeit the contest. It's not a huge deal because Sewanee was going to advance regardless – the Tigers won the regular season meeting, 23-1 – but this is a black eye for the SAA and the division. There are plenty of teams operating on a tightrope in terms of bodies, and injuries happen, but forfeiting a conference tournament game is embarrassing for everyone, including those who cover Division III.

- Tufts and Washington College locked down the top seeds in the NESCAC and Centennial tourneys, respectively, this weekend, and Salisbury took the top spot (and bye) in the CAC tourney last week. What do all three have in common besides the first chair in their league? They all could break the hearts of Pool C hopefuls across the country. All three of the teams would be at-large locks and all of them play in leagues with the candidates to unseat them on any given day.

Tufts (against Williams) and Salisbury (Christopher Newport) have already thrown up clunkers this year in their conference and WAC has played close enough to the four teams vying for the other three spots in the Centennial tourney to believe they are susceptible to a one-game lapse. The Jumbos, Sea Gulls and Shoremen are all substantial favorites to win their leagues, but they're the three teams that will make bubble teams jittery.

- Endicott made an impressive statement in its 18-10 victory over Bowdoin. The Gulls have proven for several years that they can play with the top NESCAC teams, but they manhandled a Polar Bears team that needed the win...Amherst is looking pretty good for an at-large bid at this point even though the Lord Jeffs might end up as the No. 5 seed in their own tourney...speaking of the NESCAC tourney, both Middlebury and Williams are going to be spooky matchups for everyone else...the field in the Empire 8 tourney is pretty much set barring a Stevens loss to Elmira combined with a Utica win over St. John Fisher...Aurora is on a scoring binge. The Spartans have outscored their last three opponents, 91-6, and have now won 11 straight after starting the season 0-3.

- Greensboro has parted ways with head coach Mike Burnett, who led the Pride to a 5-7 record in 2014...RPI is now 9-4 with the losses coming to Montclair State, Wesleyan, RIT and Union (in double overtime). If you're looking for a potential conference tourney spoiler, you can start with the Engineers...Adrian and Albion tangle next Saturday to determine the favorite in the MIAA tourney...Montclair faces its last obstacle between the Red Hawks and an almost certain Skyline title when it travels to Kean (14-1) on Wednesday.

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