This entry is the third in a series taking a look at each of the seven Division III programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Thursday, Feb. 17. Today is Washington’s turn.
Overview: The Shoremen went 4-10 last spring, continuing a troubling trend in which they missed the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years. That precipitated a change in the head coaching position with former Virginia Military Institute coach Jeff Shirk succeeding J.B. Clarke. Shirk, who guided the Keydets to a 13-46 record in four seasons, is now tasked with the restoring a program that captured the national crown in 1998.
Reason for optimism: The offense lost a pair of starters in attackmen Brendan O’Leary (graduation) and Josh Perlow (unspecified reasons), but Shirk is optimistic about the unit. Junior Billy Stafford and sophomores Matt Lewis and Bennett Cord are poised to start at attack, while seniors Doug Herdegen and Shane Kaski and junior Morgan Braendel are slated to fill out for the first midfield. “I think we’ve got some depth on attack,” Shirk said. “We’ve got six guys in the mix that I think will all be able to help us. In the midfield, I think we’ve got a solid first line and then we’ve got a solid two that could make us have a five-man rotation. So I think it’s a matter of more repetition and getting used to the new offense.”
Reason for pessimism: As many as three goalies are competing for the starting role, which is not necessarily viewed as a bad thing by Shirk. Sophomore Matt Miller logged a 10.60 goals-against average and a .556 save percentage in 10 starts last spring, but he’s dealing with a mild concussion. Junior Peter Stewart recorded a .557 save percentage in four starts before suffering a dislocated ankle, and freshman Ted DiSalvo has been impressive in the preseason. “Matt’s such a big kid in the cage,” Shirk said. “He’s a good goalie, and Peter and Teddy DiSalvo are smaller, but quick kids. So they all bring something to the table. But right now, who knows? Matty didn’t play in the scrimmage last weekend because he got hit in the helmet and got a mild concussion. So we only saw Peter and Teddy, who both played well. So it’s kind of up in the air right now. Matt Miller was our projected starter in the fall and did a great job. So it really is up in the air right now.”
Keep an eye on: Washington was depleted on defense with the graduation of long-stick midfielder Thom Cecere and defenseman Bobby Baur, and sophomore defenseman Matt Torr elected not to return. Still, junior Bryan Botti and sophomore Michael Pierandri return as starting defensemen, and junior Jack Vermeil has a slight lead over freshman Taylor Lynn and sophomore Stephen Pappas for the third defenseman spot. “I think the unit is a work in progress, but I think we’ve got some good guys,” Shirk said. “We’ve got five poles right now at close that I think are fighting to be in the rotation. We’ve got a very good but young D-middie corps. With the defenses that we are working on, it’s all team defense. So we’re not relying on anyone to be an individual superstar. It’s more of learning the system to where we help each other out and the defense will take care of itself.”
What he said: Like his players and the team’s fans, Shirk has dreams of compiling an undefeated season, winning the Centennial Conference Tournament, and competing for the national championship. “The reality of that, we’re going to find out,” Shirk said. “But I think at the end of day, you look back and say, ‘Did I do everything I could that day to prepare for game day?’ And that’s what we’re preaching to our guys also. When game day comes, all we have to worry about is being excited and playing hard because all the preparation was done to where we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to win. So I think expectation-wise, yes, I have high expectations. But I also have a realistic side, that it is going to take some time. But the main point is that we’re working every day, at every practice to get ourselves better.”