Morning Jac: Mary Wash Building Memories
Kurt Glaeser rattles off the plays like they happened just moments before, not days.
A one-on-one breakaway off a successful ride stoned by a hot goalie. An offensive set that culminated with a wide open shot sailing over the cage. Another shot in overtime parried by the netminder.
When you lose in double overtime, as Glaeser and his No. 16 Mary Washington team did against No. 9 and CAC rival York last Saturday, every missed opportunity is seared into your memory. It's a setback that will likely linger until the Eagles get back on the field this Saturday against Southern Virginia.
"We were pretty down, but the silver lining that I took was we created some pretty good opportunities and you walk away from that game knowing what we have to work on now," said Glaeser, now his 23rd year in Fredricksburg, Va. "It's not the ability to create opportunities, it's the ability to finish opportunities."
Even with the loss, which drops Mary Washington 6-1, the Eagles know they can run with the best teams in the conference, and the country. The confidence starts with an attack unit of seniors John Bohlinger and Luke Dick along with sophomore Billy Kelly – a group that is starting together for the second year. It has lent itself to a familiarity that can't be taught.
"One of the alumni up at York said after the game said that they look so organic playing together," Glaeser said of his front line. "Case in point, we have an inbounds play where John Bolinger picks up the ball and finds Billy Kelly on the right pipe, and just fires it to him without much of a window. In one motion, Billy releases it behind his back for a goal. That's not stuff you draw up. That's not something where I'm going to get the team together and say Johnny is going to throw to Billy and he's going to shoot behind the back. You have to let guys play. Yeah, you have Xs and Os and a system, but those guys have carried us."
The offense has been bolstered by an improved midfield unit. Senior Chip Pittard scored four goals against York, taking advantage of openings created by the trio up front.
"I told this to Chip: when we have a midfielder score four goals in a big game, that just helps everyone because people then have to start thinking they can't just ignore that and it opens others up," Glaeser said. "It was a focus for me all offseason to develop our midfield so teams couldn't focus on the attack. To an extent we've accomplished that, but we still have work to do."
The win over Washington & Lee last Wednesday was a seminal moment for the program, and sets the Eagles on a different arc than the '13 campaign, when they started strong and earned a national ranking, only to lose five of their last seven.
"Last year, the difference was we hadn't been ranked in a couple of years and I talked to them all the time about being able to play with a target on your back," Glaeser said. "It's one thing to sneak up on people and get good, and it's another thing to stay good. Last year we got a little nervous down the stretch and we dropped that overtime game to St. Mary's and we let York jump on his big before coming back. I don't know what that deal is with Salisbury. We have to get past that legacy that Salisbury has going for them, just as we had to get past the legacy that W&L had going for them recently against us. A lot of Division III guys are infatuated by who the powerhouse teams are, and you have to fight that. You have take that down peg-by-peg so in their eyes, when they walk on the field, they feel they can win and beat good teams."
Those are also all league foes, meaning Mary Washington will have to get by a bunch of them in order to win the conference automatic qualifier or at least stay in the hunt for an at-large.
"From top to bottom, we've definitely become a stronger conference over the years," Glaeser said. "You look at our out-of-conference win-loss record as a league and it's pretty heavy in our favor. Hopefully for one or two of us who don't win the conference outright, that may open the door for us come May."
Glaeser would gladly rattle off those memories.