Steve DeFeo needed proof that Christian Etchison, one of his prized midfielders, figured out how to stay on the field for an entire game.
Westminster’s boys lacrosse coaching staff spends time during a contest shuffling lineups on and off the field, so it’s possible a player could slip out of a rotation and avoid coming to the sideline. But Etchison had to have been given orders to come out, right?
After posing the question to himself, DeFeo got specific.
“He was on every single ‘team’ that you could have,” DeFeo said. “He rarely came out of the game. We had to really, like, forcefully take him off the field and substitute him and put other kids in.”
It wasn’t until an assistant coach watched a video replay of the Class 3A state championship game, and heard one of the game’s announcers make a point to mention Etchison having not left the field, that it was confirmed.
Etchison earned Times Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year honors for displaying his all-around skills, all the time.
The junior totaled 36 goals and 34 assists for 70 points, second most for a potent Owls offense that averaged 15 goals per game. He pitched in on defense by drawing the opponent’s second best scorer, and usually succeeded in neutralizing him.
He played on Westminster’s face-off shift in part because of his talent in scooping up ground balls (56 this spring). He joined the Owls’ extra-man offensive group, as well as their extra-man defensive scheme.
As much as DeFeo wanted one of his stars to stay fresh, it soon became clear the Owls were more dangerous with Etchison on the field.
“He’s definitely an impact player for us,” said DeFeo, whose squad won county, region, and state titles this spring. “He was a major scoring threat. He’s extremely difficult to cover offensively. He can go right-handed, he can go left-handed. He’s a strong dodger. He was just hard to stop.”
Etchison came to Westminster from McDonogh School, where he played football and lacrosse. Last fall he took over as varsity quarterback for the Owls — Etchison is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds — and led them to a regional championship game berth.
Lacrosse tops Etchison’s sports list these days, and DeFeo said Westminster benefited from gaining a skilled, versatile player to stick in the midfield. Etchison, who knew many of the Owls players from their rec lacrosse days, said the transition to a new program was seamless.
All he wanted to do was contribute.
“I wanted to be able to be one of those middies, one of the guys with the short stick in his hand, and not just be a liability on defense,” Etchison said. “A lot of middies that you see now a days in high school, if they get stuck on defense it’s like, ‘Oh we’re taking him right to the goal.’ I wanted to be one of the guys who could match up with somebody and possibly take one of their better players out of the game playing defense on him.
When Westminster lost its season opener to Mount St. Joseph, 10-7 on March 27, Etchison said the Owls felt like they left a win on the field. The team responded by winning its next 18 games, capping the season with a 12-8 victory over Northern (Calvert) in the 3A state final.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a spring lacrosse season,” Etchison said. “I just had a lot of fun because I got to know all the guys and I got to play with these guys. You can call them your brothers after a season like that, you just become so close.”
Etchison said he honed some of his skills a few years ago by working with former Westminster standout Ryan Hursey, who recently graduated from Georgetown as one of the nation’s top short-stick defensive midfielders.
The effort was noticed — DeFeo said he counted twice all season that an opposing player scored on Etchison, and each time it took place during the state tournament.
That’s playing with confidence, something Etchison said Westminster did all season long.
“Our team this year, we kind of knew during the season, ‘We’re going to do this thing. We have the talent,’” he said. “And we kind of all bought in.”
The Owls graduated just nine seniors from this year’s large squad, so they’ll be a favorite to contend for another state crown in 2019. DeFeo should have many pieces of his 2018 bunch back, and he has Etchison’s name atop the list.