This season has been a remarkable turnaround for Washington, which endured a 5-9 overall record and a 2-6 mark in the Centennial Conference in its first campaign under coach Jeff Shirk.
The Shoremen collected 10 wins for the first time since 2008 and earned the top seed in the conference tournament for the first time since 2004. So which accomplishment is more meaningful?
“To be honest, I think they’re both huge,” Shirk said. “I know with our offense, we talk about scoring double digits every game, and every time we hit that 10-plus mark, we get excited, and it’s the same thing with the wins. But then our goal this year wasn’t to get 10 wins. It was to qualify for the Centennial tournament. The fact that we are hosting it is pretty exciting. So they’re both pretty cool. We’re just trying to enjoy the moment, and I think the guys are excited about it.”
It’s been a long time since Chestertown was the site of the Centennial Conference tournament, and No. 2 seed Dickinson, No. 3 seed Gettysburg and No. 4 McDaniel – Washington’s semifinal opponent this Friday – can expect a hugely pro-Shoremen crowd. Playing in front of their fans will be a challenge, according to Shirk.
“I want to see us control our nerves,” he said. “The senior class is the only class that has played in a tournament, and that was their freshman year. So playing at home, it’s going to be a big-time atmosphere. We’re the No. 1 seed. So there’s always the most pressure on the No. 1 seed. I just want to see our guys handle the pressure well, control their emotions, and just play really hard. I think just like in any tournament game, you’ve got to put your best foot forward and the chips are going to fall where they fall. All you can really do is play really hard and keep your emotions in check and execute to the best of your ability.”