The Westminster girls lacrosse team lined the edge of the field at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, smiling and waving to the euphoric fans that populated Mustang Stadium on Thursday night. Some players made small talk, while others hugged and posed for pictures. When the Owls’ boys team ran onto the field for their Class 3A state final, the girls squad immediately turned around and cheered for their classmates.
Westminster relished having some time to kill before receiving its state championship trophy, something this program is not at all accustomed to. The Owls have made the state final four times, most recently in 2012. They finished runner-up on every occassion, which meant they had always received their medals first.
But against Mt. Hebron on Thursday night, Westminster broke its championship drought. The Owls jumped ahead, 5-2, in the first 10 minutes and held at least a three-goal lead for the rest of contest to secure the school’s first-ever girls lacrosse state title.
“I have dreamed of this moment, like it brings me to tears right now,” junior Anna Ruby said after the 9-5 victory. “We’ve been playing together since we were 10 or 11, so this is such a huge deal and a gift to be able to be at the right end of this and winning a state title for Westminster, first in history, so super exciting.”
Before Ruby, a Loyola commit, left the game with an apparent left Achilles injury early in the second half, she was producing like the type of player who had scored a whopping 56 goals in 18 games entering Thursday. Westminster’s leading scorer converted three first-half tallies, the first putting her team up, 2-1 fewer than three minutes into the game.
She scored again at the 15:22 mark, forcing Mt. Hebron coach Lindsay Menton to use a timeout with the Vikings down, 5-2. Up to that point, the Owls produced seven shots on goal. Five of the attempts, coming from four different players, whizzed past goalkeeper Georgia Ryan (three saves) and into the back of the net.
“They were driving hard, they were shooting hard and they were finding the back of the net early and often,” Menton said. “That kind of put us in a rut, but hey, we’ve been there before, and we believed in ourselves. We thought we would come out of it, but the clock ran out before we had our chance.”
Freshman Ashley Unkenholz and Erin Demek both scored for Mt. Hebron (13-6) in the game’s early stages, but for the next 18 minutes, the Vikings could not break through against Westminster goalkeeper Sara Tyssowski. The drought allowed the Owls to build an 8-3 halftime advantage.
The goals in the second half, though, were not nearly as plentiful for Westminster, and its offense suffered to find a rhythm after Ruby was helped off the field with 19:53 left in regulation. The Owls managed three shots and produced one goal, which came senior Madi Macera with about 12 minutes to play.
But the goal was a timely one, as it came shortly after Unkenholz brought Mt. Hebron within 8-4. The Vikings had plenty of other scoring opportunities, too, but could not find a way to beat Tyssowski. Whether the attempts came in the run of play or on free position chances, it did not matter. Tyssowski (13 saves) stopped nearly all of them.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” Owls coach Jackie Stevens said. “We just couldn’t be more proud of this program, of these girls. It’s just amazing to be a part of something and win something that we never have in school history.”
Following the on-field celebration and the state championship honoring, Tyssowski joined two teammates for a postgame press conference to talk about the program’s never-before-seen accomplishment. Stevens, trophy in hand, joined them moments later.
But before any of them could start fielding questions, they needed to take care of something. Where should they position the trophy?
After a history of championship defeats, it was the perfect problem for Westminster to have.
Westminster (17-2) — 9, Mt. Hebron (13-6) — 5
Goals: W — Anna Ruby 3, Chloe Sedlar 2, Erin Anderson, Hannah Dintino, Madi Macera, Lauren Saltz; MH — Ashley Unkenholz 2, Erin Demek 2, Ellie Miller.
Saves: W — Sara Tyssowski 13; MH — Georgia Ryan 3.
Halftime: 8-3, Westminster