At 10-1 and ranked No. 10 in the most recent United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll, Washington College is enjoying one of its more successful campaigns in recent history. But the team is thriving despite a troubling pattern of slow starts.
The Shoremen have ended the first quarter with only a one- or two-goal lead in four contests, and although they won all four games, the margin of victory for two of those was just a single goal.
During a three game-stretch against McDaniel on March 23, Haverford on March 27 and Franklin & Marshall on March 30, the team trailed at the start of the second quarters in each of those contests. Washington persevered and escaped with victories over McDaniel and Haverford, but got blasted by Franklin & Marshall, 16-9, to snap an eight-game winning streak.
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The Shoremen appeared to have bounced back nicely with an 8-1 outburst in the first quarter in an eventual 13-4 win against Muhlenberg on April 6 and a 4-2 start in the first period in an eventual 17-5 rout of Ursinus on Wednesday night, but coach Jeff Shirk conceded that the lethargic starts are worrisome.
“I think the big thing we stress to the guys is, we can’t lose focus,” he said Thursday morning. “Sometimes we have a slow start, and it takes us a little time to get focused. Other times, we’re focused and we have a fast start and all of a sudden we lose a little focus. We’ve really stressed that and I think in the last two games, we lost a little bit of focus against Muhlenberg after opening up that 8-1 start. Then yesterday, once we got our legs underneath us and started to go out on a run, we never lost that focus. So I think we’re making strides in the right direction.”
Sprinting out of the gate will be key for Washington when No. 2 Dickinson (11-0) meet in a Centennial Conference showdown this Saturday at Roy Kirby, Jr. Stadium in Chestertown. The Red Devils, who are 4-0 in the league, have outscored their opponents, 38-15, in the first quarter.
Shirk said the Shoremen need to put pressure on Dickinson early.
“I think we have to play fast,” he said. “Last night’s game against Ursinus got off to a really slow start because we just weren’t playing like we needed to until the second quarter. Dickinson is athletic, they’ve got very good players – if not All Americans – at almost every position. So it’s one of those things where I’m looking for our guys to get out and play fast. I think if we get out and play fast and we’re confident, we’ve got guys in certain positions that can help us be really successful. So I think that’s the big thing I will stress to the guys. I want to see us flying around fast.”