It may be tempting for Washington College to view the 17-13 loss to Stevenson in the second round of the NCAA tournament as a moral victory.
The Shoremen outplayed the Mustangs for the first 54 minutes of the contest at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills and chased out freshman goalkeeper Dimitri Pecunes after the first quarter. (Pecunes, however, did return and spark Stevenson to the win.) And if Washington was going to lose, at least it lost to the team that eventually captured the national championship with 16-14 decision over Rochester Institute of Technology on May 26.
But that was of little consolation to the program and coach Jeff Shirk.
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“I hate to say that the sting has gone away a little bit,” he said. “I sent a letter out to the alumni and the parents the day after the game, and we just didn’t want the season to be over. It was a great group of kids and that sting of being so close and feeling like we could have beaten them on that day, it’s sort of gone away a little bit. … I’m happy for Stevenson, but it doesn’t make me feel any better now that they won the national championship.”
Shirk has been especially harsh on himself. After the Mustangs knotted the score at 13-13 with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation, Shirk considered calling a timeout, but instead elected to let the game play out. Stevenson won the ensuing faceoff and scored just 43 seconds later to take a lead it would not relinquish. The Mustangs added tallies 40 and 44 seconds later to virtually cement the outcome.
Shirk took responsibility for not calling a timeout and settling his team down and perhaps siphoning away a little of Stevenson’s momentum.
“There is some satisfaction because it shows me that we’re close,” he said. “But to be honest, the thing that I mull over that is something that has stuck with me for a while was when it went 13-13 and we were man down and they scored the 13th goal to tie it, I should have called a timeout and kind of regrouped everything. I should have called a timeout right there. Maybe [junior Michael] Trapp regroups and wins the faceoff. If he doesn’t, maybe our defense regroups and they get a stop as opposed to letting them score right away. We made a silly defensive error that led to the 14th goal, another lack-of-paying-attention error that led to the 15th goal and then the wheels just came off, and we couldn’t get them back on. So the one regret that I have is, I should have called the timeout when they scored that 13th goal and tried to regroup everybody and maybe dig a little deeper.”