After a goalkeeper makes a save or a defense causes a turnover, an opposing offense will usually back away to thwart a fast break. For Washington College, it’s an opportunity to press the issue.
The No. 7 Shoremen (5-0) have used their ride – a term to describe a strategy in which the attackmen and midfielders try to regain possession before the opponent can take the ball to its offensive zone – to manufacture more chances. Opposing defenses have cleared the ball just 77.1 percent of the time this season (91 of 118).
Four opponents have failed on at least four clears, and Ohio Wesleyan misfired on 10 of 28 clears in a 10-8 loss to Washington College on Saturday.
“It’s one of those things where we look at the ride as a way to steal back possessions,” coach Jeff Shirk said Tuesday morning. “Of course, the faceoffs are huge, but in my opinion, clearing is second. If you clear 100 percent, you’re going to get more opportunities. But with riding, how many times can you steal back a possession? So we put a lot of emphasis on it, and again, it goes back to the guys who have really bought into what we are doing and don’t take the easy way out. They really work to make it hard for the clearing team.”
Shirk said the team’s ride has been successful because of the efforts of its attack unit of seniors Jim Cusick and J.D. Campbell, junior Sam Birnbaum and freshman Owen Evans.
“I think a lot of times, you get attackmen that will take a little stick-check swipe or a one-handed wrap check around the middie running out and then bailing out of the ride early,” Shirk said Tuesday morning. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that don’t do that. Our guys put their bodies into it. They look to turn the clearing guy back so that we can double-team him with the attackmen. They basically do everything we ask them to do, which most attackmen – to be honest with you – don’t do. Our middies are doing a good job of flowing back and forth and doing what we ask them to do, but it starts with the attack and how hard they’re working.”
The Shoremen will try to disrupt another team’s clearing game when they visit No. 2 Salisbury (7-0) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Sea Gulls have succeeded on 86.8 percent (125 of 144) of their clears, and coach Jim Berkman said Salisbury must avoid the mistakes that Ohio Wesleyan made.
“One of the differences in their game at Ohio Wesleyan was that they got two goals off the ride in a 10-8 game,” Berkman said. “We can’t give them a goal off the ride. We can’t give up a fast-break goal where the faceoff guy wins it and goes right down the field. That was like three of their last goals in the Ohio Wesleyan game. Those are situations that we can’t give up. We’ve got to make them grind for their goals.”