Washington College’s 12-11 decision over 2013 national champion Stevenson in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills on Wednesday night could be the turning point for a program that has been dormant for almost a decade.
The Shoremen (18-1) will meet top-seeded Salisbury (20-1) on Sunday in the program’s first national semifinal since 2004, and the significance of Wednesday’s win over the Mustangs (19-3) was not lost on senior attackman Jim Cusick.
“It’s huge,” said the Calvert Hall graduate, who paced Washington College with six points on five goals and one assist. “Everybody is always asking if WAC is back. To come here and play a team like Stevenson and get the win, I don’t think they’ve lost in the NCAA in this stadium, so to come into this atmosphere and get a win is huge. Now to go after Salisbury, it’s awesome.”
The victory had already generated a response from alumni, according to coach Jeff Shirk who checked his phone to find 19 text messages and 11 emails awaiting him.
“It’s a great pat on the back to the seniors who really helped rebuild this thing in the four years I’ve been here,” Shirk said. “… So it’s a big deal because it means a lot to this program and to Washington College.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Washington College’s midfield and attack produce. This season, the Shoremen have relied on a deep midfield to power their offense. But they struck a decent balance between the midfield and attack in Wednesday’s victory.
The first midfield of seniors Hunter Nowicki (Franklin) and Kodie Englehart and sophomore Sid Looney combined for three goals and eight assists. The starting attack of seniors Jim Cusick and J.D. Campbell (Mount St. Joseph) and junior Stephen Luck (Boys’ Latin) totaled eight goals and one assist. That diversity will be needed against a Sea Gulls defense that entered the week ranked eighth in the country by allowing just 6.3 goals per game this spring.
2) Washington College killed off key man-down situation. Stevenson went 4-of-6 on extra-man opportunities, including going 4-of-4 in the third quarter. But the Mustangs failed to take advantage of a six-on-four man-up opportunity when Shoremen sophomore defenseman Brad Wollman (Glenelg Country) was flagged one minute for a cross-check to the head and freshman long-stick midfielder Zachary Kelly was penalized 30 seconds for holding with 9:56 left in the second quarter.
“Guys got upset on the sideline a little bit whether they think it’s a good call or not a good call,” Shirk said. “What we try to stress is, let’s concentrate on the next play. … We killed that, and I think it gave us even more confidence and it got us even more excited to make that next play. So it just really added to the psyche and kind of excitement that was going on with the guys.”
3) Faceoffs don’t hurt Washington College. In a rare instance of futility, Shoremen junior Michael Trapp was completely overwhelmed by Stevenson senior Brent Hiken. Trapp, who had ranked seventh in the nation at 69.6 percent (240-of-345), won just 13.3 percent (2-of-15) against Hiken. Trapp’s backup, junior Ray Circo, was marginally better at 33.3 percent (4-of-12). Hiken finished at 77.8 percent (21-of-27), but Washington College proved that winning faceoffs does not necessarily translate into winning games.
“It’s one thing where we’re not one-faceted when one guy has an off day,” Shirk said. “We like to think we’re a well-rounded team and that we can make up for that. To win only six faceoffs the whole day and still be able to pull that out, I think that’s a credit to the whole mentality and that whole next-play mentality. We were losing faceoffs, but no one was getting on Ray and no one was getting on Trapper. Just make the next play. So it was a big credit to the guys’ resiliency, to not put their head down and go into the tank.”