Here is the seventh installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Wednesday’s visit was with Stevenson. Thursday’s visit is with Washington College.
The good: The Shoremen’s 18-2 record included an 8-0 run through the Centennial Conference, marking the program’s first undefeated mark in the league since the 2004 squad enjoyed the same record.
- Shirk hoping that Washington College men's lacrosse is close to joining elite
- Review & preview: Stevenson men's lacrosse
- Review & preview: Goucher men's lacrosse
- 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships [Pictures]
- 2014 local men's college lacrosse [Pictures]
- National lacrosse Players of the Week 2014 season
See more photos »
The team’s second regular-season conference title in three seasons was buoyed by come-from-behind wins against Ursinus on April 9 and Dickinson three days later. Going undefeated in the league was an achievement that resonated with coach Jeff Shirk.
“With the competition we have within the conference, to go undefeated in any year is a huge accomplishment,” he said. “In the moment, you don’t enjoy it as much because you’re always worried about the next game. But when it’s over and you can actually look back and reflect, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of. There were some really meaningful experiences during that Centennial Conference schedule that now I can sit back and smile about and enjoy.”
** In three of the four years that Shirk has helmed the program, Washington College has qualified for the NCAA tournament. In 2012, the team got bounced from the first round. In 2013, that squad exited in the second round. And this past spring, the team fell in the semifinals.
So is an appearance in the Division III title game the next logical step?
“I hope so,” Shirk said with a laugh. “We’ll see. I think we’ve gotten the program back to being one of the top programs in the country, and once those teams are playing each other, anything can happen. If you’re not in that conversation, then you don’t have a chance to win it. I think the main thing is to maintain the level that we’ve established and work as hard as we can to put ourselves hopefully in a position to advance even further.”
** The senior class of nine composed the smallest group on the roster, but had a lasting impact on the team. From JD Campbell and Jim Cusick on attack to Hunter Nowicki and Kodie Englehart to Casey McKnight and Stephen Pappas on defense to Ted DiSalvo in the cage, seniors dotted nearly every unit and set examples for their younger teammates.
“It goes back to our senior leadership,” Shirk said. “Having a senior in the cage and having a senior on close defense and a senior getting long-pole runs and offensively with Hunter and Kodie and Jimmer at attack and JD Campbell, we had some seniors at really key positions that I think give you a little more confidence and really help give the younger guys a little more confidence as they come around. They all stick out as being crucial to our success this year.”
The bad: The Shoremen’s march through the NCAA tournament included a redemptive 12-11 win over Stevenson – which scored a 17-3 victory in the second round of last year’s tournament en route to the school’s first national championship – in the quarterfinals.
But their good vibes ended in a 13-8 loss to Salisbury in the semifinals, and Shirk could only look back at the opportunity that slipped through the team’s collective fingers.
“As a team with talent and a team with a lot of competitive people, I can pinpoint five, six, seven different things where if we had done them differently, the outcome would have been different,” he said. “In looking back, there were absolutely missed opportunities and the focus is, how do we correct that moving forward and how do we take advantage of those missed opportunities down the road?
"I think it was probably a week after the national championship game when I finally stopped being bitter about some of those missed opportunities and could actually look back upon the good things and really enjoy it and be proud of the guys.”
** The program’s two losses were the fewest in a single season since 1992, when that squad went 10-2. But the team’s two losses both occurred at the hands of Salisbury, which has been the nemesis of many opponents.
Perhaps that’s why Shirk said he has no regrets about losing to the Sea Gulls.
“We want to compete against the best teams,” he said. “Let’s be honest, for the past decade or more, if you wanted to win the championship, you had to go through Salisbury in the South. In the last seven or eight years, Stevenson joined that race. So we want to be able to compete, and you want to play against the best teams in your region because it makes it more meaningful if you’re able to beat them.
"They’ve set the bar very high, and we’re chasing that bar, and we think we can get to that bar.”
** Washington College had enough firepower to overcome injuries, but that doesn’t mean the team went through the season unscathed.
Junior faceoff specialist Michael Trapp missed two starts because of a strained hamstring, and junior midfielder Grant Hughes broke his femur and missed the team’s last seven games. Juniors Raymond Circo and Will Rate filled in for Trapp, and sophomore Sid Looney and junior Luke Birnbaum rotated onto the first midfield for Hughes.