Morning Jac: Quirk, Endicott Leaping in the Right Direction
Sean Quirk is a jumper. After every key save, shot, ground ball and faceoff last night in Beverly, Mass., Quirk did a little bunny hop on the sidelines.
There was one final leap as the buzzer sounded, announcing that Endicott, for which Quirk is the head coach, had defeated defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Tufts on Tuesday night.
I jokingly asked Quirk an hour after the game whether his calves were sore from all the leaping, which brought a small laugh.
"I'm a pretty emotional coach in any game, but we had a great crowd there and our guys, they really believed that they were going to win the game," said Quirk, who was completely drained following the contest. "Every time I was getting excited it was just for our guys."
It was not only for the guys on the field.
Whereas some coaches approach each game as if it's in a vacuum and each season as if it resets every spring, Quirk sees both as part of a linear path for his program. As such, those who have been a part of Endicott's slow, but steady, push to the top of Division III in the past are kept close to the current edition.
After the 9-8 upset, Quirk introduced 20 or so alums who had attended the game to the players. And even though it was the current batch of Gulls who had just captured the biggest victory in school history moments before, it was they who gave the alums a round of applause.
"We really pride our team on family and that's what we base it around," said Quirk. "They were the ones who built the tradition, and we gave them a hand."
While he'll deflect most of it, Quirk deserves the majority of the credit. He has almost single-handedly made the Commonwealth Coast Conference relevant with multiple NCAA tournament bids and a schedule that always includes the best teams in New England. I've conversed with Quirk many times over the years, through previous highs and lows, and he's held steady in his vision for the team.
Notching a win over the No. 1 team in the country was an affirmation that he wasn't chasing rainbows.
"You've been following our program and we've been talking for a while," said Quirk. "We just try to get better every year and get good kids. This is just another testament that we're going in the right direction."
I gave Quirk about 90 minutes to enjoy the victory before dousing him with a splash of reality. After beating the defending champion and top-ranked team, the bar is set pretty high for the rest of the season. If the Gulls can't back this win up with strong performances the remainder of the season, Tuesday will be viewed as a mirage.
"Right when we brought the team in, one of our captains, Chris Gugino, spoke and one of the first things that came out of a player's mouth was, 'We have a 48-hour rule and we have Bowdoin on Thursday. Let's start getting ready for them.' That said a lot coming from a player before it came from me."
Right or wrong, the game in Brunswick, Maine, on Thursday will be a referendum on Tuesday's triumph. Even if the Gulls lose, they'll take the knowledge that they can beat any team when they enter the NCAA tournament.
That's when the jumping really begins anyway.