Westminster boys lacrosse coach Steve DeFeo said his Owls’ players were on a mission.
The Owls advanced to their first state championship since they won one in 2013 and used an early four-goal run, thanks in part to two goals from senior attacker Patrick Stewart, and a balanced attack to defeat the Patriots 12-8 to capture the 3A state title May 24 at Stevenson University.
Sticks went flying as the Owls (18-1) swarmed the field at the sound of the horn. Westminster’s girls lacrosse team captured the 3A title earlier in the afternoon, much to the program’s pleasure as a whole.
“It’s what you strive for as a school,” junior Christian Etchison said. “You want to represent your county, you want to represent your town and for both of us to come out and win it, and softball has a chance to win states [Friday] night, just for our school to be represented like this, it’s amazing. It’s what you ask for.”
Three Owls scored three goals apiece — Etchison, senior attackman Alec Kozlowski, and Stewart. Bubba Love, a junior attackman, notched three assists and a goal.
Northern trimmed the deficit to 4-2 with goals from Brandon Sulhoff and Matt Holland with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter, but the Owls racked off three more goals to carry a 7-2 lead into the half. Kozlowski sparked that run with a goal just seven seconds after Holland scored.
Face-offs were rolling in the Owls’ favor through the majority of the first half, which allowed the team to gain such a lead. The Patriots retaliated with a four-goal run to open the second half before Love found Etchison for a goal to give Westminster an 8-6 lead.
The Patriots found the back of the net twice more, but Westminster continued to hold them off.
Sophomore goalie Logan Covey made 11 saves for the Owls, who won their 18th straight game on Thursday.
Westminster lost the season opener to Mount St. Joseph but didn’t suffer another defeat, winning Carroll County Athletic League and 3A West Region titles before posting two wins in the state tournament to capture the program’s second crown.
The victory was a sweet one for the Owls, who were upset in the 4A-3A state semifinals by Churchill last season. DeFeo, in his eighth season coaching the Owls, praised his players and assistant coaches in mentoring the athletes.
DeFeo added that a lot of Westminster’s success starts early in life, through recreational lacrosse and youth programs that allow the kids to get their careers underway. It’s proved successful for these Owls, many of which grew up playing together.
“The funny thing is, it’s not what I’ve done, it’s the players I’ve had throughout that have done it,” DeFeo said, with a smile. “I don’t catch a pass, I don’t make a pass, I don’t get a ground ball, I don’t play defense and I don’t play goalie. I don’t face off and I don’t play wing, the kids do it. I’ve been blessed to have fantastic players come through our program and my jobs to just not mess it up, get them in a good direction, get them motivated, work them very hard, and put them in a position to win.”
Etchison earned Times Player of the Year honors for his efforts in the spring — 36 goals and 34 assists, along with 56 groundballs — and he was one of seven Westminster players that landed on the all-county first team.