Losses by Stevenson and Cornell vivid reminders of perils awaiting Washington College

At 6-0, No. 5 Shoremen leery of opponents posing as land mines eager to end team's bid for perfect season

March 22, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Owning a perfect record can be a double-edged sword. There’s the excitement and attention that results from staying unblemished, but there’s also the knowledge that opponents are eager to end the run.

Both Stevenson and Cornell fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Tuesday. The No. 2 Mustangs dropped a 7-6 decision to No. 9 Tufts and the No. 2 Big Red were nipped, 9-8, by No. 20 Bucknell. Those setbacks are reminders of what awaits 6-0 Washington College as it prepares to dive into the Centennial Conference portion of its regular-season schedule.

“It’s one of those things where we try to focus on being mentally ready to play and knowing that if you’re not, any team can beat you,” coach Jeff Shirk said. “So it’s a nice reminder, and we’ll absolutely use it.”

Shirk emphasized that the goals of any team participating in a conference with an automatic qualifier is to win the conference tournament and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Not incurring a loss along the way is merely a bonus.

“[O]ur goal isn’t to be undefeated,” he said. “Our goal is to go out and win every game that we play and get the next one, but it’s not going to make or break our season whether we’re undefeated or not.”

The Shoremen’s biggest hurdle may be No. 3 and conference rival Dickinson, which is scheduled to visit Chestertown on April 13. But Shirk pointed out that McDaniel, which comes to town this Saturday, owned an 8-3 lead in the third quarter before Washington rallied to escape with a 10-9 win on March 17, 2012.

“[W]hen the conference starts, it’s a whole different game,” he said. “With McDaniel coming in this weekend, they were up 8-3 last year, and we had to come back. So it’s one of those things where the conference is always different and there are always upsets in the Centennial. So it’s one of those things to where we’re not trying to concentrate on where we are now. Just focus on the next opponent because I think it helps keep guys grounded and balanced, and I want to make sure that their heads don’t get too big.”

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