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Westminster's triple-threat is Student-Athlete of the Year

Enduring a postgame interview room at UMBC Stadium on May 25 was tough for Alyssa Semones and her Westminster girls' lacrosse teammates.

The Owls had just lost to state power Severna Park, 14-7, in the Class 4A-3A state championship. The fact that it was Westminster's only loss after 16 consecutive victories just made matters worse.

But the senior captain handled that painful moment the same way she did her successes in four years at Westminster. While the hurt from a loss in her final high school game was evident, so was Semones' class and dignity in front of media and state high school officials.

The Owls came up short in the title game, but Semones proved her worth time and again during her four-year athletic career. Yet she's equally proud of her academic record and the service that she provided to her school and community.

For the sum of those accomplishments, Semones has been named The Eagle's Student-Athlete of the Year.

Semones, who is now bound for Penn State, played three sports and earned 12 varsity letters at Westminster. She captained the Owls' soccer and basketball teams as a junior and senior, and became a lacrosse captain this year.

She pushed herself to become a top player in all three sports.

"Lacrosse and basketball are definitely my two favorite sports," said the Penn State-bound Semones, who began playing lacrosse at the age of 4.

"When I was in the eighth grade, I realized that I had a chance to play lacrosse at the college level, so I worked much harder at it."

Semones was the unquestioned leader of a talented Westminster lacrosse squad that featured six players who scored 50 or more points.

She finished third among county scoring leaders with 73 goals and 50 assists, as the Owls won Carroll County and Class 4A-3A North Region championships to earn the school's eighth straight trip to the state semifinals.

A comeback victory over C. Milton Wright put Westminster into its second title game in the past three years. The Owls scored the game's first three goals and held a 5-4 halftime lead, but Severna Park outscored Westminster 10-2 in the second half to earn its tenth state crown.

"I never really thought that I would become a 200-goal scorer," said Semones. "I just wanted to help the team get to the state finals and win."

'Beyond ... everyone else'

Her mark on the Westminster lacrosse program went far beyond this season. Semones leaves Westminster as the Owls' career goal leader.

Her 229 goals are the fifth-highest total in Carroll County history.

"She never settled for just being good," said Jackie Stevens, Semones' lacrosse coach for the past three years. "Alyssa would always give 110 percent and was always trying to improve. I remember in our game against Century, she was being face-guarded all the time. But she still led us to a win, despite being down by seven goals at one point."

Her shooting and rebounding skills helped Semones raise the Westminster girls' basketball program. In her freshmen season, the Owls won just six games. They steadily improved each year, jumping to 10 wins in her sophomore season and 12 victories during Semones' junior campaign.

Last winter, Semones led the county in scoring (18 points per game) and free-throw percentage (82.5 percent) as Westminster went 14-9 (11-3 in county play) and finished third behind South Carroll and Liberty in a competitive race.

"I didn't start playing basketball until I was 8," said Semones, who closed her career as the second-leading scorer in Westminster girls' basketball history with 1,212 career points. "After shooting around at a neighbor's house, my sister and I came home and told my dad that we wanted to play basketball that year."

She also was Westminster's most productive soccer player for four years. Last fall, Semones again put the team first, agreeing to switch positions from striker to center midfield.

After three seasons as the team's leading scorer, Semones scored four more goals this year to finish with a career total of 25, including a high of ten in her junior year.

She credits her parents, Tim and Tonya Semones, for the work ethic that has carried her to great accomplishments.

Her older sister, Kristin, now a rising junior at Virginia Tech and a lacrosse player for the Hokies, was also a big influence.

"My parents have had a huge impact on everything that I've done," Semones said. "They taught me that you have to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing.

"They always pushed my sister and me to get good grades," she said. "Even when we talked about playing college lacrosse, they always said that you're there to get a good education first.

"Kristin helped me to push myself. I wanted to work as hard as she did in order to be successful. She's been my role model."

Class acts

While playing three sports, Semones compiled a 3.98 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale). In her secondary school academic career, she recorded just one B, in an advanced placement biology class this year.

"I ended up with an 88 average, and I was so close (to an A)," she lamented. "But I didn't feel too badly about it."

Her lacrosse coach wasn't surprised by Semones' academic success.

"Playing three sports forces you to prioritize," said Stevens. "Alyssa's very smart, and excelled in all of her classes. She was able to effectively manage her time. The other girls really looked up to her."

Semones also found the time to get involved in her school and community. Her love of sports led Semones to become a youth league basketball referee, and she also worked soccer and basketball summer camps at Westminster High.

Her time as a volunteer with Special Olympics Carroll County's spring games truly made an impact on her.

"I really loved Special Olympics," Semones said. "The kids were having so much fun, and they were so friendly with everyone. And they are happy for whoever wins an event."

For three years, Semones served as the treasurer for Westminster's Class of 2011. An active member of the National Honor Society, she helped with a project that donated gifts to a veterans' hospital.

Semones also participated annually in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event.

"Everything that I worked for, I achieved," she said. "If you work hard, you will get where you want to go."

In mid-August, Semones will work hard in a different location when she heads for Penn State.

She plans to study kinesiology, with the long-term goal a career in medicine or exercise science. She will also play lacrosse for a Nittany Lion team that consistently ranks in the national top 20.

"I really liked the atmosphere at Penn State," said Semones, who mentioned the school's big-time football program as an added attraction.

"I wanted a school that would push me to keep working hard academically. Penn State had kinesiology and pre-med programs, and that helped with my decision.

"Plus, I've never heard anyone say anything bad about Penn State," she said. "The campus is beautiful, and the (lacrosse) scholarship played a big part."

Before she leaves for the mountains of north-central Pennsylvania, Semones had one more local game to play. She was scheduled to compete for the South team in the annual Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic, July 2, at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.

"I'm really excited," said Semones, who set to play with former club teammate Lexi Cross of Liberty.

"I played in the underclass game last year, and talked to my dad about how much fun it would be to make the Under Armour senior All-America team and play in this game.

"I didn't get my hopes up, and was honestly shocked when they said I made it."

About This Award

Since June 2008, The Eagle has presented the Overall Student-Athlete of the Year award at the end of the school year. All student-athletes who compete at the varsity level for a Carroll County public school are eligible for the award, which is based on academic achievement, athletic achievement, and a record of service and good citizenship in the school and community.

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