War on the Shore becomes meaningful again for Salisbury, Washington

There was a time when the War on the Shore series between Salisbury and Washington was not only a heavily-anticipated affair, but perhaps a sneak preview of a matchup in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.

That label is not being attached to Saturday’s game in which the No. 17 Shoremen (9-3) visit the No. 1 and reigning nine-time national champion Sea Gulls (16-0), but this is the first time since 2009 that both participants enter the contest with winning records.

“It’s good for lacrosse,” Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said Thursday of the game being meaningful for both sides. “… I’m glad they’re coming back. It’s a game we would never drop because of the rivalry and the Clark Cup. People didn’t give Washington College the credit because of the last couple seasons. But now here they are. So hopefully, if we win on Saturday, it’ll be another great quality win as far as our strength of schedule goes.”

Added Washington coach Jeff Shirk: “I think that’s always nice. I know it’s got our guys excited, I know it’s got fans excited, and I know we’re excited to play a meaningful game.”

Shirk isn’t predicting a victory over a Sea Gulls juggernaut that has beaten its opponents by an average margin of 14.4 goals, but he is looking for a certain degree of execution from his team.

“I think it’s important to us from a confidence standpoint,” he said. “Salisbury is very good. They have pretty much handled almost everyone they’ve played. So from our guys’ standpoint, if we can come out and compete, it could be a huge confidence builder for us going into the Centennial Tournament.”

For his part, Berkman sounded impressed with the Shoremen’s turnaround in just Shirk’s second year as the head coach. But Berkman also pointed out that the framework for the program’s success hasn’t really changed.

“They’ve always had good players there,” he said. “Washington College has never had a shortage of players. They’ve always had 45 or 50 kids in the program, and the program has great traditions. They have unbelievable resources with the amount of full-time coaches that nobody else has. So nothing surprises me with what they’re doing because they put an extreme amount of importance on men’s lacrosse at Washington College. So the wherewithal to be good there has always been there, and they’ve always had a lot of good, solid players. Obviously, they’ve come together, and they’ve had a lot of nice wins. They’ve had a nice little run here at the end of the season. They’re well-coached defensively, they have a great senior goalie who’s been really good for four years, and we’re going to have to play well Saturday against their multiple defenses and attack them accordingly.”

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