This is the last year of rec lacrosse for the eighth-grade girls on the Westminster I team. Of course they'd like to win a Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association championship before moving on to high school this fall.
A number of them have played on this team since they were in kindergarten, and they've never won a title. They came closest last year when they made it to the finals before losing. So they'd like to win one when their Junior B Division playoffs start in a couple of weeks.
But coach Julie Moreland says there's another thing they talk about even more than winning that championship trophy.
“Each year, we have an alumni game where the eighth grade girls and boys play each other. Honestly, that's the thing they are looking most forward to," Moreland said.
With two games remaining in its MYLA regular season, Westminster is 8-0 in the division. All but one of those wins have been by seven-goal margins or more. That one exception was a forfeit by Freedom 1, which went as a 1-0 shutout.
Fallston 1 is in first place at 9-0. Westminster won't meet them during the regular season.
Both Moreland and her players wish they could have played Harford County-based Fallston.
"We'll probably see it in the playoffs," Moreland said.
She and assistant coach Krista Davidson were confident coming into this season. Fifteen players were back, and only two needed to be added. The coaches decided not to play in any tournaments this year because many of her girls played other sports such as soccer, softball and volleyball at the same time as lacrosse.
But they planned to work on some things that will help the girls in high school.
“We wanted to work on mental strengths and team dynamics. We wanted them to learn to play their own game and not let the other team distract them or affect what they do on the field," Moreland said.
They opened their season against HFG, a team of Howard County seventh-graders playing up in an eighth-grade division.
“They were talented, and they played us with a lot of intensity. We'd never played them before, and we didn't know what to expect," she said.
The team eventually won the game 12-5, but Moreland said the final score didn't reflect how tough the game was. Moreland considers this to be the key game of the season because it showed how well her girls would do against a very talented opponent.
Despite being undefeated, her team doesn't have a great statistical lead on the others.
Its 103 goals scored are only sixth best in the 18-team loop. Its 37 goals allowed are the fewest, but it still has one more game to play than the other contending teams.
Moreland says a lot of the team's strength lies in its unity and familiarity.
"They know each other so well because they play basketball and other sports together. Many have been on the lacrosse team since kindergarten. They enjoy being together," she said.
Out on the field, they do what they have to do to win.
“Sometimes the defense breaks down, and sometimes it's on. But on any given day, any one girl can bring it and be a shining person out there," Moreland said.
The fact that any one player can play big at any time means that opponents can't gear on just one or two.
"I try to encourage as many girls as possible to score,” Moreland said. “If we score 13 goals in a game, I want to be able to show them that seven different girls scored one or two goals each. I want as many persons as possible to be able to score.”
Another advantage the team has is versatility. Its coaches have developed this by moving players around once the team has a big lead — and in Westminster's case that happens fairly frequently.
Moreland believes that players having the skills to move to a different position helps her team now. It also will help the players themselves once they reaches high school.
Often times, primary positions are already taken. However, a high school coach may need someone in a different position, and a girl can take over there if she has developed the skills to do it.
The team needs this balance and versatility these days because several of its players are injured and need to sit out some or all of their final two regular-season games.
Moreland says her squad must be healthy to do well in the playoffs. She said the defense must be on, and much of the latter depends on the players effectively communicating on the field.