It was during his first lacrosse game when Ryan Hursey had a big decision to make.

Yes, he was only a first-grader, but it was a decision that could change what sport he would pursue.

After getting hit for the first time, Hursey came off the field crying and proclaimed he didn't want to play lacrosse anymore.¿

"I remember that game vividly. It's funny now. Kevin Gwyn, who is Scott's father, he was coaching and Ryan is on the sidelines crying," said Ryan's father Jim Hursey. "Kevin comes up to him and says, 'All right, there's two ways we can approach this. One, you can stop playing. Two, you can go get even.'

"So my son put his helmet back on, ran out there and pretty much hacked everyone on the field."

Somewhere along the way, Hursey stopped hacking and started playing. Dedicating his springs to lacrosse, the senior capped a great career and for his work this season, he is the Times Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.

Tallying 34 goals and a county-leading 45 assists, Hursey led the Owls to a second consecutive undefeated county record before falling to Howard — a team that made the state finals — in the second round of the playoffs.

Although his 79 total points were good enough for third in the county, it is the other things Hursey does that made him so valuable to the Owls.

"Every time there is a dead ball, he comes and picks it up for us. When we need to clear it, his stick is the one we aim for," said Westminster coach Steve DeFeo. "He doesn't care about being the one to score the goals, he just wants the team to score. He's one of the leaders on this team, he is the one who leads the pregame and the post game huddle. He's just a central figure in what we try to do here at Westminster."

Spending his childhood living up North, Jim Hursey and his brothers played hockey as often as they played football and baseball, but all of that changed in the late 1970s. Hursey moved to Maryland in 1978 and playing hockey was not all that common and non-existent on the high school level.

But when he started his freshman year at South Carroll, Hursey was about to witness something he had never seen before, boys lacrosse.

"We moved down here right before I started high school and no one around played hockey like we did up North. Then I saw lacrosse. It was like hockey on grass and I was hooked," Hursey said. "Ryan played baseball when he was younger, but he didn't like the pace of it so I bought him a stick and told him to give lacrosse a try."

Although he never officially coached Ryan, his role was prominent in his son's development — even if his son didn't really want to listen on every occasion.

"He was a big motivating factor for me. On the car rides home he would give me some criticisms whether I liked it or not," Ryan Hursey said. "He's always that force telling me 'Hey this is what you can work on.' He's helped me tremendously, especially with my attitude on the field."

Jim hasn't been the only one around for most of Ryan's career. Neighbor and teammate Brian Kohr has known Hursey since they were just a couple of years old.

Fellow teammate Jesse Uhlman said it's easy to tell they know each so well because they are the duo to keep an eye out for when it comes to pulling pranks. Uhlman would know, he also plays football with them.

DeFeo said Hursey is one that keeps it light, but understands when it's time to be serious.

"When you know someone that well, it's hard to take them seriously all the time. When someone tries to take over during practice and be a leader, it's hard sometimes," Kohr said. "He did a great job of doing that this year. But he's the goofiest kid. If you're up in the stands you would never know what goes on. But all we do is joke around and just have a great time and I think that is part of our success.

"He's definitely one of the keystone components of the team. He always cracking jokes and keeping everyone's spirits up."

On the field, Hursey was a marked man no matter who was playing Westminster. Hursey notched three goals and four assists in the loss to Howard that snapped the program's 34-game winning streak. It was Hursey who went to the defensive third of the field when the Owls desperately needed to clear the ball.

His exploits were impressive enough that Georgetown University offered him a scholarship to continue his lacrosse career and Hursey jumped at the chance to go to a prestigious school. The opportunity to play lacrosse was just a bonus.

"I know I can't play lacrosse forever. Georgetown offers a good education that I really didn't want to turn down," Hursey said. "It's great that I will continue to play lacrosse, but when I'm finished, I'll need to have a career and I felt that school offered me a great chance to get where I want to be down the road."

Odds are Hursey will get stronger and be productive for the Hoyas on the lacrosse field, just like he was for Westminster. And odds are he will never exit the field during a game with tears in his eyes again.