Westminster's boys lacrosse team has a winning mentality, and the Owls don't get caught up in what they can't control.
When the opportunity arises, they find that direction and use it to their advantage. It's worked for the Owls all season, and it continued on Saturday in a 13-5 victory over host Urbana in a Class 4A-3A South Section 1 semifinal, a game that displayed a wide range of emotions.
"We knew coming in that they were a good team so we knew we had to stick to our game plan and come out strong," said Owls senior goalie Johnny Hulsman, who finished with 14 saves. "There was obviously some weird things in that game but I think we pushed through all that and got a good win."
The county champion Owls (14-1) earned a first-round bye prior to Saturday's game, and will face Dulaney in the section final at Westminster on Monday.
Westminster senior attackman Ryan McManus got the Owls on the board first with 8:52 left in the first quarter. The Owls took an offside call and Urbana sophomore midfielder Brendan Schmitz scored on the man-up advantage to tie it at 1-1. The Owls scored the next three goals for a 4-1 lead but the Hawks trimmed the deficit 4-2 to close out the first quarter.
The Owls went on a two-goal run when senior midfielder Noah Park carried the ball down from midfield and patiently waited for a shot opportunity. Park, who scored four goals and added an assist, was faced with minimal pressure as he fired his shot through the back of the Hawks' net to give the Owls a 5-2 lead.
Things got chippy in the third quarter as an assortment of unsportsmanlike conduct infractions were handed to players from both teams. A timeout was called with 3:59 left in the quarter, but the Owls continued to lead the way, carrying an 8-5 lead into the final quarter.
"We probably need to keep our eyes on that goal which is winning a state championship," Park said. "We can't let anything little affect that or let anything get in our way."
The fourth quarter was all Westminster, and junior attackman Alec Kozlowski notched a hat trick in the frame. The Owls used a 5-0 run in the quarter to shut out Urbana and come away with the victory.
"I like the fact that we got out in front," Owls coach Steve DeFeo said. "I was a little disappointed that we had a lull there and didn't score but I'm really proud of the guys in the way they responded in the fourth quarter and finished the game out. That's a test to the boys on their perseverance in the type of character they have and the leadership that's out there with the senior group and their ability to control the ball."
Hulsman, one of the county's leading goalkeepers, had a .654 save percentage as of Friday. The senior has been a staple for the Owls all season, DeFeo said, and his leadership shines.
"Johnny's been our most valuable player all season," DeFeo said. "He's been a fantastic leader, senior on the team, goes way back to the offseason with that leadership. He's a guy who can't get enough of lacrosse, plays year-round. All his hard work pays off and he very much has a passion for the game and you can see that today with how he played through everything."
Goals: W-Noah Park 4, Ryan McManus 3, Alec Kozlowski 3, Matt Banks, Chase Buckwalter, Bubba Love; U-Brendan Schmitz 2, Sean McGrady, Austin McMahon, Jake Pyke.
Assists: W- Love 2, Buckwalter 2, Park; U-McMahon.
Saves: W-14 (Johnny Hulsman); U-16 (Kevin Medina).
Halftime: Westminster, 6-3.