Steve DeFeo preached to his Westminster boys lacrosse players when they came to the sideline about knowing their role and sticking to it during Monday’s season opener against visiting Liberty.
Junior midfielder Alex Steers seems to know his ― the Owls’ veteran face-off specialist flashed his skills in a big way as Westminster overcame the Lions’ strong start and rallied for a 9-6 win at Ruby Field.
Steers, along with juniors Andy Maupin and Harrison Reed, helped the Owls win 16 of 18 face-offs, which gave them valuable possessions after Liberty scored five of the game’s first eight goals and led early on. The Lions were aggressive and took advantage of some sloppy plays on Westminster’s end, but having a reliable “FOGO” such as Steers proved crucial to the Owls’ running their program’s winning streak to 38 consecutive games.
“I love the adrenaline when it kicks in on that face-off,” said Steers, who is in his third season as a varsity starter. “And it all starts with everyone doing their job. It feels great. I love getting the face-offs for the team ... scoring goals starts with the face-off.”
Junior attackman Zack Johnson had four goals and senior midfielder Cam Doolan added two goals and an an assist. Westminster trailed 5-3 with less than 4 minutes to play in the second quarter before Doolan won a matchup against Lions senior defenseman Nick Geppi, who held his own along the far side of the field until Doolan found his way toward the crease and netted a goal.
That one-on-one showdown seemed to ignite the Owls, who tied the score 7 seconds later on a goal from Johnson with an assist from Doolan.
Westminster maintained the bulk of possession during the third quarter and got two late goals from sophomore Mike Simons and junior Brendan Sapp.
Liberty junior attackman Jesse Jason scored early in the fourth to make it 7-6, but the teams traded a few turnovers over the next few minutes that too up some time. Johnson found the net again with 4:46 to go, and Brady Covey added one more with about a minute later.
Jason and fellow senior attackman Tyler Stratemeyer led the Lions with two goals apiece, with Jason and senior midfielder Nico Hodgkiss handing out two assists. Justin Long, a senior, stood tall with 14 saves for Liberty, and Brett Nastos shined on defense.
But the Owls prevailed and kept their streak intact despite showing a little rust from not playing a varsity game in a little more than two years.
“This was a good learning lesson for our team going forward for the rest of the season,” DeFeo said.
Westminster has two more games this week, starting with a Tuesday clash at South Carroll before hosting Manchester Valley on Thursday.
“This year we’ve got a lot of younger guys, so it’s important for me and some of the other guys who have been around to be out and lead and be vocal,” Doolan said.
Goals: L-Tyler Stratemeyer 2, Jesse Jason 2, Jordan Ambrose, Dylan Minnich; W-Zack Johnson 4, Cam Doolan 2, Mike Simons, Brendan Sapp, Brady Covey
Assists: L-Nico Hodgkiss 2, Jason 2; W-Covey, Doolan
Saves: L-14 (Justin Long); W-7 (Matt Kunert).
Halftime: Tied, 5-5
JV result: Westminster, 11-7 (W-Jackson Zaranski 5 goals).