If the North Carroll boys lacrosse team intends to win the county championship, the road to that goal leads through Westminster.
That message was reinforced last night.
Owls senior attack Kyle Koslowski scored a hat trick -- including the game-winning goal in the final quarter -- to lead the defending county champs to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Panthers in Westminster.
Despite the graduation of some of the program's more prolific scorers, the Owls proved that they still have the offensive weapons to match a solid defensive corps.
"I think we've been underestimated," Koslowski said. "We know it's very competitive in the county this year, and it's going to take a lot to accomplish our goal [of defending the county title]."
"This was a huge game for us," said sophomore defender Brian Roche, who helped limit the North Carroll big three of Zach Crisler, Kevin Sirman and Nick Thurston to a combined one goal and one assist. "Everybody's good in the county, and we wanted to come out and play hard because every game is important to us."
The Owls, who improved to 2-0 in the county and 4-1 overall, enjoyed a 26-19 lead in shots and a 36-16 advantage in ground balls. As a result, Westminster controlled the game's pace for much of the evening.
"Any time you have a close game, you got to have the advantage in ground balls," said Owls coach Jim Peters, who was without junior midfielder Doug Dietz because of illness.
Westminster took a 2-0 lead courtesy of two straight goals by Koslowski in a 2: 07 span of the first quarter. And a goal by Symonds gave the Owls back a two-goal cushion with a score at 5: 15 of the second quarter.
The Panthers (4-3, 1-2 in county) dominated the third quarter, getting goals from junior midfielder Ryan Wilkerson at 7: 45 and from sophomore attack Nick Thurston less than two minutes later to tie the score at three.
But Koslowski's goal off a pass from junior midfielder Mike McGinnis with 5: 42 left in the final quarter kicked off three unanswered Westminster goals.
"We're not moving the ball well right now, but I'm not sure what the problem is," said North Carroll coach David Dodson, whose team has scored a combined six goals in the past two games.