Westminster High School’s 2018 varsity boys lacrosse season started with a matchup against Mount Saint Joseph, and the Owls fell short against their private-school foe.
They walked away from that March 27 contest with good vibes, however. Players talked about having high hopes for a good spring, one that featured a challenging regular-season schedule with opponents such as DeMatha, C. Milton Wright, Damascus, Fallston and Kent Island, along with the traditional Carroll County competition.
Westminster topped them all the rest of the way, finished 18-1, and won a Class 3A state championship. The Owls did it again the following season and repeated as state champs in posting a 19-0 record.
After not playing in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Westminster entered the 2021 season riding a 37-game winning streak, good for the second longest by a public-school team in Maryland history, according to laxrecords.com.
Westminster made it 38 in a row with Monday’s 9-6 victory over Liberty at Ruby Field, and added No. 39 on Tuesday by beating South Carroll, 8-5.
That win tied the Owls with Severna Park (April 1, 2016, to March 27, 2018) for the state’s longest streak public-school streak.
Then on Thursday Westminster tacked on No. 40 with an 18-7 victory over Manchester Valley, earning a place in Maryland lacrosse history.
The Owls entered the matchup with the Mavericks having gone 1,143 days since their most recent defeat.
A fresh season brings a relatively new group of players together. The Owls have 21 underclassmen (including nine sophomores and one freshman) on their roster, compared with six seniors. Many of the underclassmen have some varsity experience, but it’s youth nonetheless.
And it’s being tested so far.
Liberty scored five of the first eight goals in Monday’s game before Westminster regrouped and held the Lions to one goal in the second half. The Owls kept South Carroll to two second-half goals the following night.
Coach Steve DeFeo stood alongside senior Cam Doolan and junior Alex Steers after Monday’s game, and the trio was asked whether they feel the program’s winning streak adds pressure to their games.
DeFeo shook his head no, but his midfielders had the opposite reaction.
“We love that,” Doolan said. “Our goal every game is to win it, so even with this win streak over top of our shoulders our game plan doesn’t change. We’re just going to go out there and try to win every game we can. Nothing really changes.”
Added Steers, Westminster’s faceoff specialist: “Definitely there’s some pressure that comes with it. But it’s a great feeling coming out there and performing, especially with all the pressure on you ... everyone has got to do their job.”
DeFeo is 143-17 in his nine-plus seasons as Westminster’s coach, and no stranger to streaks. The Owls won 34 games in a row from March 21, 2013, until May 13, 2014.
Still, the state’s top two all-time marks remain. Georgetown Prep won 48 games in a row from April 22, 2005, to May 9, 2007. And St. Paul’s has the top spot with 72 consecutive wins in the mid-1940s, according to laxrecords.com.
DeFeo said he talks to his players about what they’ll be facing every time they take the field ― their opponents’ best effort. But the longtime coach said he was impressed with the Owls’ ability to rally on defense in their first two wins this spring.
Whatever it takes to improve, and maybe add another victory.
“It’s interesting to hear them say that,” DeFeo said about his players’ feelings toward the winning streak. “You know why? They’re hearing it from alumni or they’re hearing it from the older kids and their buddies. ... I personally don’t think that way.
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“It’s kind of cool. It’s not like we meant that to happen, but you do because you’re always trying not to lose. So if you’re trying not to lose and you’re playing hard, then it ends up happening. It has just naturally happened. It’s not like we set out to do that.”