By virtue of last year’s 7-1 record in the Centennial Conference, Washington bypassed perennial league powers Dickinson and Gettysburg en route to the school’s first regular-season championship since 2004. And with just three starters gone, the Shoremen figure to be one of the teams considered a preseason favorite to finish first in the league again.

That means that Dickinson, Gettysburg and other conference rivals like McDaniel, Haverford and Franklin & Marshall will place a target on Washington. But that’s not news to coach Jeff Shirk.

“[T]o be honest with you, I don’t think we’ve ever been in a position where teams haven’t had us targeted,” he said. “Even in the last couple years when we had off years, I think teams still had us targeted, [saying,] ‘They’re down, and this is our chance to get them.’ Are we going to sneak up on teams? No. But to be very honest, with the history of the program and the competitiveness of the conference, I think that teams target us whether we’re having a good year or an off year.”

But the Shoremen aren’t exactly shrinking violets. In fact, last season’s success boosted team morale and has the players and coaches thinking of trying to extend those gains into 2013.

“I think it gave the guys confidence,” Shirk said. “So the one thing that we do have as a team coming in that is really helpful as a coach is guys actually believe that we should be at the top of the conference. A year or two years ago, guys wanted to be at the top of the conference, but I don’t know if they necessarily believed that they deserved to be there. So from using last year’s success as a springboard, it’s really just about building on that confidence and making sure as a coach that I’m doing everything I can to set them up for success.”