By beating Lynchburg, 10-7, in an NCAA tournament second-round game Saturday, Washington College earned its first appearance in the quarterfinal round in six years.
None of the current players or coaches has reached this stage of the tournament, but coach Jeff Shirk said he is not worried about a sudden case of anxiety infecting the team.
“There are nerves in every playoff game,” he said Monday. “We were nervous for the first one [against Eastern] and we were nervous for the second one against Lynchburg. I think that nerves are normal, and we’ve talked to our guys about it. Once you get that first hustle play under your belt and fly around a little bit, the nerves go away and you just play.
"So we’ll address it with the guys. We’ve stressed to the guys that this is what you’ve worked so hard for, to play in May and be a handful of teams still playing. So instead of being nervous and worried about things, let’s just go out there and fly around and do what we do and have as much fun as we can.”
The Shoremen (17-1) will play Stevenson (19-2), the reigning national champion that has now advanced to six consecutive quarterfinals. Coach Paul Cantabene said the repeated trips can only help the players’ comfort level.
“I think playing in a lot of NCAA games helps,” he said Monday. “You know how to go about it, you know how to handle it if things don’t go your way, you’re more prepared for what it takes to get to each round. So I think it can help us, but we also know that they’re going to play their best and that this is a big hump they’re trying to get over.”
Wednesday’s game at 7 p.m. at Mustang Stadium is a rematch of last year’s NCAA tournament second-round matchup that Stevenson won, 17-13, in a game that featured 26 penalties.
Asked if revenge can be a motivation for Washington College, Shirk replied: “I don’t know. We’re two different teams. They graduated a lot, we graduated a lot. Coaches have different ways, and I have different ways of trying to get my guys motivated, but I don’t necessarily think that revenge is going to be at the top of that list. But it might be a factor.
"Maybe there’s a comfort level for our guys in knowing that this is not the first time they’ve played in Stevenson’s stadium at Stevenson. They know the atmosphere, they know what they’re walking into and what to expect. So they know how to prepare better.”