Winning face-offs is about more than just the “X” man for Westminster’s boys lacrosse team.
In fact, the Owls say they don’t fully succeed unless their “Face-Off Team” is in sync. And when Westminster has the ball, opposing defenses tend to feel it.
The Owls performed well at the “X” on Wednesday against city rival Winters Mill and came away with a 14-6 win to stay unbeaten on the season. Chase Buckwalter paced Westminster’s offense with four goals, while fellow senior Bubba Love had three goals and two assists.
Justin Hulse, a senior who came to the Owls from Winters Mill before this season, netted three goals.
The Owls (10-0, 5-0 Carroll County Athletic League) outscored Winters Mill 6-0 in the second quarter to take control. The lead gave Westminster a nice cushion, but its face-off patrol wasn’t satisfied.
“It’s what starts the game and ends the game,” said senior Max Nave, one of three midfielders who handle the face-off duties. “Nothing’s guaranteed, [so] winning face-offs guarantees you possession.”
Nave missed six games because of an injury after filling the face-off role in Westminster’s season opener against Mount St. Joseph. He returned last weekend, in wins over Glenelg and River Hill, and shared the job Wednesday with junior Ethan Zepp and freshman Alex Steers.
The Owls collected 15 face-offs to Winters Mill’s nine, which gave their offense more opportunities to run. The visitors had to rally early, however, because WM’s Will Tobias was enjoying his share of “X” success.
Kaden Ross scored the game’s first two goals before Westminster regrouped and rattled off five in a row to end the first quarter. The Owls won five of seven face-offs in the second frame, and Love netted three goals in that stretch to lift Westminster to an 11-2 halftime lead.
Nave and coach Steve DeFeo both credited the rest of the face-off squad for helping Westminster fend off the Falcons — the wings who dart toward the circle once the whistle blows, from junior defenders Michael Davis and Cory Hamilton, to junior midfielder Levi Brodman, to senior midfielder Christian Etchison.
“They have their own styles,” DeFeo said about Steers, Nave, and Zepp. “There’s a lot of rotation going on. We want ball possession.”
Ross had three goals to lead Winters Mill (3-5, 0-4), and Reid Stewart added two goals. Ross also posted an assist, while goalie Jax Francisco made eight saves.
WM coach Darian Meador said he was pleased with how the Falcons handled adversity during the game. Westminster’s depth, however, proved too difficult to overcome, he said.
The Owls moved a little closer toward capturing the county championship with Wednesday’s win. They can clinch it by beating South Carroll (7-3, 3-1) on April 25.
Westminster has other goals in mind too — the reigning Class 3A state champions would like nothing more than to add another title. DeFeo said he knows focus will be key for his players the rest of the way.
“We’re 10 games into it now, we’ve got four left in the [regular] season — all very important games,” DeFeo said. “Every game is an opportunity to get better as a team.”
Goals: W-Chase Buckwalter 4, Bubba Love 3, Justin Hulse 3, Christian Etchison, Cam Doolan, Kyle Rizzo, Nick Wingo; WM-Kaden Ross 3, Reid Stewart 2, Brady McGuire.
Assists: W-Love 2, Wingo, Buckwalter, Hulse, Austin Sipes, Evan Park; WM-Will Tobias, Alex Carr, Ross.
Saves: W-10 (Tre Price 6, Conner Covey 4); WM-8 (Jax Francisco).
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Halftime: Westminster, 11-2.