Down 10 players, proud Shoremen refuse to suspend title aspirations


CHESTERTOWN -- On the wall in Terry Corcoran's office is a photo taken in 1983 during his first year as Washington College's lacrosse coach. It shows players bumping and grinding in front of the goal and, in the background, the scoreboard: JOHNS HOPKINS 6, VISITORS 3 in the third quarter.

That was Corcoran's first game with the Shoremen and the last time the Shoremen opened a season at Johns Hopkins. Never mind that the final was Hopkins 12, Washington 4. It was 6-3 in the third quarter, wasn't it?

"That was the last time we played them close over there," Corcoran said. "It's always close here -- 8-4, 16-10, 12-8, 17-11."

But it's not going to be here this time. It's going to be there: Washington will play its opener Saturday against Hopkins at Homewood Field.

It could be argued that the engagement couldn't have come at a worse time for the Shoremen. Ten of their players -- seven of them probable starters -- were dismissed from the team for the season and now Washington has to take on Johns Hopkins.

Corcoran isn't whining or complaining. He is without 10 good players, but he plunges on toward what he hopes will be another appearance by the Shoremen in the NCAA Division III championship game. They have been there five times since 1982, always bowing to Hobart.

"I really feel sorry for the 10 kids," Corcoran said. "They're done for the season, but, after that, well, I always believe in giving people a second chance. For now, we have to put it behind us."

The incident occurred Feb. 17 when a Washington College van carrying the 10 players was stopped for speeding by North Carolina police en route here from Duke following a scrimmage. The driver, a player, was arrested for driving while intoxicated and the other nine allegedly were intoxicated as well.

In terms of numbers, the lacrosse team is by no means devastated. Corcoran normally has 50 players in his program, and, even minus 10, he will continue to field a "B" team as well as a varsity. He elevated "some" players to the varsity, leaving "at least 16" on the "B" squad.

"All the varsity games will be dogfights now," Corcoran said. "A lot of times we've been expected to just walk on the field and win. That probably won't be the case now, but that will only serve as motivation."

In terms of quality, the loss of the 10 clearly hurts. Corcoran puts up a brave front, pointing out that Washington edged "up and coming" Division I Georgetown in a scrimmage the other day, yet concedes the Hoyas "aren't Johns Hopkins."

"It's a tough loss, no question," Corcoran said. "But we have a lot of kids who want to play lacrosse.

"There's a lot of tradition here. A kid puts on a jersey and seems to run faster and play harder. We have a ways to go, true. But we're not throwing in the towel."

Corcoran ticks off the names of his remaining quality players, a dozen of them. Two are goalie Dave Slomkowski of Laurel and captain and midfielder Greg Rupert of Baltimore, both seniors. Slomkowski was a Division III first-team All-American last year and is, in Corcoran's estimation, the best goalie in the country.

"I was pretty disappointed when we lost the players," Slomkowski said. "After seeing the guys we have left, I realize they're good kids and not that far lacking."

Rupert said, "At first, I thought there wasn't much of the team left. But the young players have improved so much in two weeks, and they'll be even better in two more weeks. Our goals haven't changed. We still want to make the playoffs."

Rupert, a Liberty High graduate, grew up in Baltimore and spent a lot of time around Johns Hopkins when his father Gary was the basketball coach there. The Shoremen's 12-1 loss at Hopkins two years ago still burns in his mind. It was 11-0 at halftime.

"I always read about Johns Hopkins and saw the trophies and went to the games," Greg Rupert said. "The year before last, we were embarrassed and humiliated in front of 4,000 people. We want to do better than that this time."

On Saturday, Corcoran hopes his young players will get over their stage fright early. It is a big moment for them, one of the main reasons they enrolled at Washington College.

"This is a chance for them to play at Homewood," Corcoran said. "That's why they come here. We're the only Division III team that Hopkins plays. The kids will be excited."

"He is one of the best coaches," Slomkowski said. "If anyone can build a winner, he can. Other teams better not feel too sorry for us. We may have a big surprise for them."

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