ELLICOTT CITY — Westminster is the reigning Class 3A state champion, and the Owls will get a chance to defend their crown after defeating Stephen Decatur 15-5 on Friday night in the state semifinals at Mount Hebron High School.
“We’re pumped, especially the seniors, we just want to see a repeat so bad,” said senior midfielder Anna Ruby. “We have still a lot to show.”
It did not take long for the Owls (13-6) to get their offense started, netting three goals in the opening five minutes of the game — two of those came from Ruby. She led Westminster with a game-high five goals.
But Decatur (10-6) wouldn't let the game get out of reach in the first half. In less than two minutes the Seahawks scored three straight goals to erase Westminster's lead with 13 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the opening half.
“We knew who their shooters were and we were letting them get by,” Owls goalie Sara Tyssowski said. “So our huddles afterward really worked, we were calling things out and seeing what was happening so we really adjusted well to make the correct movements and stop them.”
After that stretch the Westminster defense put on an impressive performance, not giving up a goal until there was just 9:58 remaining in the game. The senior goalie tallied eight saves, multiple times off shots coming from free position.
The rest of the defense walled off the inside and stopped Decatur from passing into the heart of the unit. When the Seahawks did score in the second half, the goals came off of long possessions that ran down the clock.
“It’s amazing, it’s something we have been working on in practice and our communication is way better than it was in the beginning of the season,” Tyssowski said of her defense.
As the Owls stonewalled Decatur, the offense took over and mounted another lead for the defending champions. This time Westminster wouldn't allow Decatur to get back in the contest.
Ruby notched two more goals in the first half and was joined by teammates Hannah Dintino, Katie Pettine, and Lauren Saltz to give the Owls a 9-3 advantage going into halftime. And there could have been even more goals.
Westminster didn't waste any opportunity to get a shot off, attempting 23 of them in the first half, with 13 coming on goal. Eventually the breaks started going Westminster’s way as it ended the half on a 6-0 run.
“We definitely emphasize that we don’t want to be a second-half team so it felt really good to get a cushion as we went out and set the tone,” Ruby said. “I think we legitimately have seven attackers who can go to goal and are threats, so I think we love the fact that if they shadow off of one of our players we can still compete.”
Westminster didn't let up the pressure in the second half as Dintino added two more goals in the second half to give her four for the game, as five different Owls registered a goal in the big win. But the offense didn't have to score nearly as many goals in the final 25 minutes.
Westminster took less shots and instead possessed the ball to run down some clock before scoring four goals in the last four minutes to cement the victory.
The Owls to head Paint Branch High on Monday for the state final, against the winner of Huntington and C. Milton Wright. Westminster coach Jackie Stevens has been pleased with her team’s effort and performance all year heading into the final game.
“It makes my heart skip a beat, how proud I am of these girls,” Stevens said. “We knew during the season that this is where we wanted to be and it’s where we are ending up so I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Goals: W-Anna Ruby 5, Hannah Dintino 4, Lauren Saltz 3, Katie Pettine 2, Chloe Sedlar; SD-Sarah Engle 3, Ellie Dutton, Katie Mitchell.
Assists: W-Dintino, Skylar Miles; SD-Brittyn Lyra Leonard 2.
Saves: W-8 (Sara Tyssowski); SD-9 (Isy Kristick).
Halftime: Westminster, 9-3.