The final score of 20-7 suggested that No. 6 Washington College had an easy time in Wednesday’s thumping of visiting Gettysburg in a Centennial Conference tournament semifinal in Chestertown. But that was not the case.
After scoring the game’s first 17 goals, the Shoremen began replacing their starters with reserves at some point in the third quarter. But after the Bullets scored four of the next six goals, the starters returned.
That might sound like overkill since Washington College still owned a 19-4 advantage, but coach Jeff Shirk he couldn’t shake a feeling of discomfort.
“We put our starters back in for maybe a three-minute span because in my mind, it just wasn’t enough and I thought we maybe we put in our young guys too early,” he said on Friday morning. “So as far as ever feeling comfortable in a tournament game against a really good team, I didn’t really feel comfortable at all during it. And then luckily, our starters went back in and played a good three or four minutes, and we got our emotions back, and we put our reserves back in and they played well for the remainder of the game. It was never really comfortable.”
Asked if he was worried about being accused of running up the score, Shirk shared a conversation he had with Bill Tierney when he was guiding Princeton in which Tierney said his philosophy was to pull his starters when the team scored 19 goals.
“To be honest with you, we’ve gone away from that mentality,” Shirk said. “We need to learn how to play 60 minutes of lacrosse, and at the end of the day, there are teams that try to beat you as bad as they can, and the best teams in the country aren’t going to shut it down. Salisbury is not going to shut it down. Stevenson is not going to shut it down. So our mentality is, we want to win every game and we want to win it the best way we can.”
The Shoremen (14-1) will play host to Franklin & Marshall (13-4) in Saturday’s tournament final at Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium. Washington College won the regular-season meeting, 9-6, on March 29, but Shirk said he is wary about the Diplomats.
“I look at film and maybe I overanalyze stuff and maybe I get too concerned about things, but I’m sitting there going, ‘They’re good,’” he said. “We’re going to have to play at the top of our game to be able to compete with them. … You sit back as a coach and wonder, ‘Does it motivate them more knowing that they lost a close one to us earlier in the season? Does that actually help them be more prepared for us?’ I think either way, we’re going to try to forget about what happened in the regular season and just have our guys focus on the current F&M team and how they’ve gotten better throughout the season.”