Westminster sophomore Brandon Kim emerged from his school clutching two lacrosse sticks and received positive reinforcement from his coach.
"Nice job," Steve DeFeo said.
From there, Kim smiled as he slid into the rear seat of a blue sport utility vehicle. Kim left Ruby Field delighted after scoring his first varsity goal in a 20-1 Owls victory over Sherwood in the Class 4A-3A North Section 1 semifinal.
Westminster will host Howard, the reigning Class 4A-3A state champions, on Monday.
Kim, a recent junior varsity call-up, wears No. 32. It's one of those large uniform numbers saved for young players who did well on junior varsity and earned a late-season promotion.
He only plays extensive minutes if Westminster is cruising to victory. And that's exactly what happened Saturday afternoon.
The Owls surged to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter, dominated possession, earned nearly every ground ball and exhibited patience on attack. By the second quarter, with the lead already ballooning to double-digits, DeFeo went with his more inexperienced players.
Just before halftime came a moment Kim won't forget any time soon.
After senior attackman Blake Ruby scored to give Westminster a 15-1 lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half, Kim wound up with possession on the ensuing faceoff. He sprinted toward the opposing goal unguarded and whipped a line-drive shot into the back of the net.
"It was so cool to see him celebrating and looking for that fist-pump," said senior Rett Jamison, who had a game-high six goals.
Credit the fast start for making such a highlight possible.
DeFeo said the Owls (10-5) had an excellent week of practice leading up to their first playoff matchup. The hope is that all the monotonous ball drills, the conditioning and the attention to detail will lead to an extended postseason run for the Owls.
They certainly looked ready in their first moments of the preseason.
Ruby (five goals) also pointed to Westminster's difficult schedule for preparing them for the postseason.
While the Owls lost three of their last four games, uncharacteristic for a traditional high school lacrosse power, those setbacks came against excellent teams. The defeats were to private school power DeMatha, undefeated Carroll County champion Liberty, and two-time defending Class 3A-2A state champion Kent Island.
"The effort that the guys put forward was outstanding," DeFeo said, "and that's the effort we are going to need going forward."
Possession led to more than enough goals, which led to the starters getting breaks. Opportunities followed for others. For example, sophomore Patrick Stewart scored the game's final goal on an assist from freshman Will Budzynski.
The more experienced Owls will play a more prominent role against Howard. Westminster and Howard have won two of the last three 4A-3A state championships — the Lions knocked out the Owls in 2015 and 2014, Westminster's only two losses in those seasons.
While the high school varsity careers of players like Kim are just beginning, for Westminster's 13 seniors, a sense of urgency is palpable.
"Our team performs well when everything is on the line," Ruby said. "Now that it's one-and-done, we have to be ready to play."