With a 13-1 record, a Centennial Conference regular-season title and the top seed in the upcoming league tournament, Washington College is currently ranked third in the most recent South regional rankings.
That ranking could change depending on how the Shoremen – ranked No. 6 in last week’s United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll – fare in the conference tournament, but coach Jeff Shirk acknowledged that he is monitoring the team’s hold on the No. 3 ranking in the region, which could determine the team's seeding in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s what we work for,” he said Monday morning. “You work to put yourself in a position at the end of the year to have the best opportunity to make a run for it. Other than the one game at Salisbury, our guys have really done a great job of doing what they need to do to be in this situation right now. So it’s definitely encouraging, but again, we’re stressing to the guys that we’ve got to be focused on Wednesday and be ready to put our best foot forward.”
Washington College finished with an 8-0 record in the Centennial Conference, marking the program’s first unbeaten mark in the league since 2004. Shirk said the accomplishment has been especially meaningful for alumni and the coaches.
“It’s kind of gotten the monkey off our back as a program,” he said. “The current guys don’t really look back, and it doesn’t really affect them because the focus is on the games at hand and not past games played. But from an alumni standpoint and a program standpoint, it’s been a long time since we’ve beaten Gettysburg. It’s the first time we’ve beaten them in my four years here. So finishing undefeated in the regular season is a big deal to the alumni and the coaching staff, but the players aren’t exactly focused on it.”
Wednesday is the first day of the Centennial Conference tournament, and the Shoremen will host Gettysburg (9-6, 5-3). Washington College beat the fourth-seeded Bullets, third-seeded Franklin & Marshall and second-seeded Dickinson by a combined score of 38-26, but Shirk said the team should brace for a more concerted effort from its league rivals.
“I think from a coaching standpoint, we know there are no cakewalks in this conference,” he said. “So it’s going to be a dogfight against Gettysburg on Wednesday. ... I think the guys are confident in the fact that we’ve put together a pretty good year, and we believe in their abilities. But I don’t think it makes anybody sleep any easier knowing that we’re going to have to play our best to win our next game.”