A year ago, four of Washington College’s top five scorers were attackmen. This spring, it’s the midfield that is driving the offense.
Four of the Shoremen’s top seven producers in points and goals are midfielders in senior Hunter Nowicki (68 points and 32 goals), sophomore Sid Looney (36, 25), junior Grant Hughes (32, 26), and senior Kodie Englehart (28, 10). And their top three assist men are midfielders in Nowicki (36), Englehart (18) and Looney (11).
The midfielders combined for five goals and three assists in the team’s 10-7 win against Lynchburg in an NCAA tournament second-round game on Saturday.
It’s a stark contrast from 2013 when the offense ran through attackmen Bennett Cord (33, 31), Jim Cusick (28, 4), J.D. Campbell (17, 15) and Matt Lewis (18, 7), but it wasn’t unintentional, according to coach Jeff Shirk.
“I think any year, you look at your strengths and you look at how you can put your guys in the best positions to be successful,” he said on Monday morning. “This year, we had a lot of depth in the midfield, and so it was one of those things where we play from seven to nine midfielders. We’ve got some specific offensive midfielders, but we’ve also got some two-way midfielders. So we’ve really kind of just structured the offense to where we’ve got some things we can run through the attack, but essentially, we use our depth and athleticism in the midfield to try to create offense for us, and it’s been successful. I think that’s where a lot of our athleticism lies.”
Shirk said the transition from an attack-driven offense to a midfield-oriented unit began in the fall.
“When you graduate Bennett Cord and Matty Lewis and an attack-oriented group of guys that could dodge and that we could lean on, you’ve got to figure out what your new identity is going to be, and that happens in the offseason,” he said. “Coming into the fall, we figured out we were going to be a little bit more midfield-oriented , and it just kind of worked. So it’s been a year-long process for us, but the guys haven’t had any issues with it. They’re responded well and have run with that identity.”
No player has seemed more at ease with the offense’s new identity than Nowicki. The Franklin graduate was named the Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and Shirk said he is deserving of being named a first-team All American.
“Hunter has come so far since his freshman year,” Shirk said. “He’s just flourished this year in that role as the go-to guy. He never lets anything get to him and he never looks like he’s under pressure. He just goes out and plays, and he’s smooth in everything that he does. So he’s been impressive to watch and has really embraced that role where guys are looking to him not to make that great play every time, but to be consistent to where we know we can lean on him.”