In his third year as head coach of the Westminster boys lacrosse team, Steve DeFeo has the Owls on the verge of history.
A win against North Carroll on Friday night would complete the program's first perfect regular season.
But DeFeo and the Owls have bigger plans.
After falling to South River, 10-8, in last year's Class 4A-3A state championship, the Owls are a team full of seniors ready to take that final step to bring home the program's first state crown.
A Westminster alum who played at St. Mary's, DeFeo spent 10 years as an assistant coach under Owls longtime coach Jim Peters from 1995-2005 before returning in 2011 to take over as head coach.
DeFeo, a financial advisor at Wells Fargo in Westminster, expects his players to be passionate about lacrosse, play as hard in practice as in games and to have fun. He's quick to note a big part of the team's success is due to his assistant coaches Tarhy Alford, Brandon Johnson and Mark Penn.
What has made this a special season to this point?
We've worked in the same system for three seasons now, so the kids know what to expect in the offseason and what we're looking for going into the season. Also, the players are all very close friends and they enjoy each other's company. Even in the offseason, they were on their own doing fun things together and keeping their sticks in their hands. They're just active with it. I would say they're very passionate about playing lacrosse and are having fun with it and that's something we encourage.
What are some coaching philosophies you stand by?
We coach as a team, we play as a team, react as a team and we all want to be on the same path with one another. We also want the guys to enjoy what they are doing and have fun with it. At the same time, we want them to prepare for practice every day and practice hard and play hard. We're trying to execute what we're putting in for a game plan and practicing as hard as we play essentially.
What can the team take from last year's title game to help this season?
There was a number of things we can take from that. First, I felt like I needed to get better as a coach and we as coaches talked about that. As far as that experience, just going to a venue like that and being in front of that, it was very loud that day. It was exciting for the kids, but it was hard for the players to communicate. Going through that, I would say that experience is outstanding for them. And I think because we were there last year and have so many returning players -- if we're fortunate enough to make it that far again -- it won't be as shocking to them this year.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
I enjoy being around the players and the coaches. And probably the biggest thing is watching the development of the players from March 1 on and seeing them improve on a consistent basis as the season progresses.
What's it going to take to bring home the program's first state title?
We need to continue to execute what we're doing. The guys know every day they have to buckle up their helmets and be ready to go at it. There's a lot of quality teams out there and nobody is going to hand anything to you, so they'll need to give 110 percent effort. We fell short last year and the guys are motivated to get back there, but we also know there's a tough road ahead of us.