Bad blood brewing between coaches of Stevenson, Washington College men's lacrosse teams

Washington College and 2013 national champion Stevenson checked, bruised, and battered each other in a thrilling 60-minute NCAA tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday night at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills decided by a Jim Cusick goal with 22.5 seconds left to lift the visiting Shoremen to a 12-11 decision.

There were some verbal whacks after the game, too.

In his postgame interview with media, Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene expressed his displeasure with comments made by Washington College coach Jeff Shirk in an online article written by Jac Coyne for Lacrosse Magazine.

After addressing the Shoremen going 5-of-6 on extra-man opportunities, Cantabene shifted the conversation, saying, “Once they learn how to win our respect a little bit, we’ll be all right. I’m not really happy with how Coach Shirk viewed our program in the paper with some of the things he said and especially at the end of the game when all of his assistant coaches are yelling at our coaches and stuff. They’ll learn how to win one day and then we’ll see how they go. It’s a process. He’s building a program, and they were excited and that’s the way it is.”

Cantabene was referring to Shirk’s comment regarding his memory of the team’s 17-13 loss to the Mustangs in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

“If you allow yourself to be sucked into that, you are not going to be allowed to play your game,” Shirk said to Coyne. “We’re going to worry about us and not the other stuff. We’re not going to worry about what penalties are called, or what aren’t called. Or what shenanigans are going on around the stadium. We’re just going to try to give our best effort. We had them for 53 minutes last year, and then let it slip away. They were the better team, but I think our guys are motivated.”

A little later, Shirk said of Stevenson, “They are the same. They are big, they are athletic and they are going to try to intimidate you. You are going to have to deal with the atmosphere, too.”

Informed of Cantabene’s unhappiness, Shirk defended his comments and his staff.

“I think Paul is upset because he was upset earlier today at an article that Jac Coyne wrote, and I thought it was a pretty accurate and pretty true article,” Shirk began. “I didn’t say anything but facts in that article, and he was upset with it. I know he expressed his unhappiness with Lacrosse Magazine. I know he accused me of some things. And then at the end, we shook hands, and Paul said some pretty inappropriate comments to me. So I probably shouldn’t have said something back and then a couple of his staff members started saying something and [Catholic University coach and NCAA representative] Brooks Singer had to come over and break things up, which will be addressed with the NCAA front office.

“But I think Paul was completely out of line,” Shirk continued. “His players were great. His players didn’t say anything. They were very respectful. It was him and a couple of his assistant coaches that were the issue. But I’ve known Paul for a long time, and we used to be friends. I don’t think we are anymore. But I just think that’s his mentality. He tries to push his mentality onto opponents, and it works most of the time. But you get into tight games against teams of equal talent and you get yourself into a dogfight. But I’ve got no ill will with Paul. I know he’s upset with me, and I don’t think it’s justified. I know we didn’t do anything wrong, and I know our staff didn’t do anything wrong, and I know our players didn’t do anything wrong. We’re going to worry about us like we did today and not worry about any problems they want to try to create.”

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