No. 8 Westminster rolls to Class 3A state final berth against Northern-Calvert; C. Covey, Love and Buckwalter combine for 12 goals; L. Covey has a dozen saves in Owls’ 36th straight win
by Nelson Coffin
Methodical without being too menacing, the unbeaten Westminster’s boys lacrosse team powered its way to a 16-6 victory over James M. Bennett in a Class 3A state on Saturday afternoon at Mount Hebron High School.
The Owls (17-0), who have now won 36 straight games since bowing to Mount St. Joseph of the MIAA A Conference in the 2018 season opener, ran out to a 3-0 lead in the first five minutes on two goals by Chase Buckwalter and one by fellow senior midfielder Christian Etchinson and were never headed again.
Buckwalter’s tallies put him at the 50-goal plateau, second on the squad to senior attackman Bubba Love, who notched his 56th goal of the season as the Owls built a 6-3 advantage in the first quarter and a 10-4 halftime bulge.
Love, the youngest of six children and a Frostburg commit, also eclipsed the 100-point mark for the season after totaling four goals and a pair of assists in the victory.
He said that while reaching the coveted points goal was on his mind, it takes a back seat to beating Northern-Calvert in the state title game next week at Paint Branch High School at a date and time yet to be determined.
Love said that capturing a second consecutive 3A crown is what the Owls are all about.
“We brought back a good core (from the 2018 team),” said Love, who boasts 59 goals and 44 assists this spring. “And we want to do it for each other.”
They knocked around the Clippers (12-6) from Wicomico County with a steady barrage of shots and superb goaltending from junior starter Logan Covey (13 saves) and reserve netminder Tre Price.
“We just couldn’t finish today,” said Bennett coach Milt Rodriguez, a Long Island native coaching in the Salisbury area in the Eastern Shore for 15 years. “And their goalie was on fire. He’d make a save that led to some fasbreaks. We knew that we could compete with them, but it just so happened that we we ran into a hot goalie today.”
Covey’s stops early seemed to give him and the defense a ton of confidence, and once the Owls took control there was no stopping them.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from them,” Love said. “But we came out and fought hard.”
Although he’s not the biggest guy in the annals of the sport, Westminster coach Steve DeFeo said that Love doesn’t back down from any challenge.
“Pound for pound, he’s as tough as they come,” DeFeo said. “Sometimes I ask him if he wants to come out after a hard check, and he never does. Plus, he’s got a really high lacrosse IQ.
Westminster was able to have extended possessions in the second half while getting two of his game-high five goals by junior midfielder Conner Covey.
Love also netted two more shots and senior defenseman Gavin Bloom rippled the net as well.
Senior midfielder Braden Glushakow led the Clipper assault with three goals followed by senior attackman Luke Nestor with two scores and junior midfielder Alex Sewell’s single retort.
Back-to-back titles would be a first for DeFeo and the Owls, who claimed the program’s first crown in 2013 with Ryan Drenner and company.
“It’s not a magical formula,” DeFeo replied when asked how he went about building such an impressive program. “We reinforce what they’re doing well and coach what they’re not doing well. We’re blessed with great athletes and you have to have that. We have great feeder programs (Gamber and Wax) and those coached do a good job of coaching the kids. It’s something that has just evolved, and it’s a combination of commitment and dedication.”
Pictured above: Westminster senior attackman Will Budzynski dodges away from a Jame M. Bennet defender in the winning moments of the Owls’ 16-6 victory in a Class 3A state semifinal Saturday afternoon at Mount Hebron.
CLASS 3A BOYS LACROSSE STATE SEMIFINAL
(AT MOUNT HEBRON HIGH SCHOOL)
NO. 8 WESTMINSTER 16, JAMES BENNETT 6
WHS 6 4 2 4 — 16
JMB 3 1 1 1 — 6
Goals: JMB- Braden Glushakow 3, Luke Nestor 2, Alex Sewell; WHS-Conner Covey 5, Bubba Love 4, Chase Buckwalter 3, Cameron Doolan 2, Christian Etchison, Gavin Bloom.
Assists: JMB-None; WHS- Evan Park 2, Bubba Love 2, Justin Hulse, Brendan Huey, Austin Sipes.
Saves: JMB Cayden Atkins 5; WHS-Logan Covey 12, Tre Price.