No. 14 Owls race past Mount Hebron, 9-5, for first state championship (VIDEO HERE!!)

Anna Ruby (left), Haleigh Moore and Sara Tyssowski show off Westminster’s first girls’ lacrosse state championship trophy.

by Gary Adornato

After four previous trips to a state championship game without a victory, Westminster High girls’ lacrosse coach Jackie Stevens knew her squad was poised for breakthrough in Thursday’s 2018 Class 3A state title tilt at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium.

On the strength of a brilliant first half and clutch goal tending, the 14th-ranked Owls delivered for Stevens, scoring a 9-5 win over No. 16 Mount Hebron to bring home the Carroll County school’s first girls’ lacrosse state championship.

“It’s just an awesome feeling,” said Stevens. “We couldn’t be more proud of this program, of these girls. It’s just amazing to be part of something this big and to win something that we have never had in school history.”

Westminster appeared to catch Mount Hebron off guard in the first half with its shear speed and athleticism. The Owls challenged every pass, demonstrated tremendous spacing on its clears, and executed well in the passing game.

At the forefront of the effort was senior star Anna Ruby, who won 7-of-12 draws and had a first half hat-trick, including a back-breaking goal just eight-seconds prior to intermission, as Westminster seized an 8-3 lead.

After Mount Hebron’s Ashley Unkenholz collected a rebound and deposited it in the net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead, 1 minute, 4 seconds into the contest, Westminster jumped in front with unassisted goals by Chloe Sedlar and Ruby.

Mount Hebron pulled even, at the 21:29 mark, with an unassisted tally by Erin Denbeck, but Westminster scored the next four goals to assume a 6-2 lead with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the opening half. Hannah Dintino, Lauren Saltz, Ruby and Sedlar scored during the spree.

Denbeck scored her second of the half to stop the run, with 3:27 left, but Erin Anderson answered for Westminster, before Ruby’s third tally in the closing seconds.

The Westminster momentum, however, stalled early in the second half when Ruby went down with an ankle injury and was unable to return. The Owl offense lost a little of its flow and Mount Hebron was finally able to string together some possessions.

With Ruby, who scored 60 goals this season, sidelined Stevens knew her squad had to dig deeper.

“We knew, without Anna, it wasn’t going to be easy,” stated Stevens. “With Anna’s injury, that’s going to take out one of our players, but we’re such a strong unit, such a strong force that we knew we could come together and fight, because we have been fighting hard all season.”

Unfortunately for the Vikings, more possession did not translate into more goals, mostly due to the outstanding play of Westminster junior goalkeeper Sara Tyssowski who made 13 saves, several of the brilliant variety, including eight in the second half.

According to Tyssowski, the key was not getting caught up in the excitement of the moment.

“I just really had to slow myself down because when we were getting the ball, they were coming down and trying to frustrate us,” said the junior net-minder. “I talked to myself and told myself to calm down. But, our defense was amazing so obviously I had some good backup.”

Unkenholz got Mount Hebron back on the board with 14:48 to play, cutting the Owl lead to 8-4, but Madi Macera came back with a free possession score, at 11:36, to re-establish the five goal margin for Westminster.

Mount Hebron’s Ellie Miller netted the final goal of the night when she picked a contest ball out of the air and raced 20-yards to beat Tyssowski one-on-one, with 9:38 left, but Westminster was able to close it out from there and celebrate as the clock finally wound down.

Ruby made a gallant effort to return, working with trainers behind the Westminster bench, but she was never able to do more than a light jog and eventually joined her teammates on the bench to root home the girls who remained on the field.

“I was trying to get out there, but at some point, if you can’t put any weight on it, you’re hurting your team more than helping,” said Ruby. “I had full confidence in these girls that we were going to be able to continue to execute. It was bitter sweet to cheer from the sidelines, but at that point, I was even more happy because I got to watch such amazing girls do such amazing things.”

Mount Hebron coach Lindsay Menton praised Westminster on its performance and vowed that her young team would return.

“Westminster started very fast,” said Menton. “We had a game plan together and made some adjustments at half time, but it was too little too late.

“We have so much to be proud of. Hebron has not been here since 2009. This is not the last you will see of us.”

at Stevenson University
GOALS: WEST-Anna Ruby 3, Chloe Sedlar 2, Madi Macera, Erin Anderson, Lauren Saltz, Hannah Dintino; MHEB-Erin Demek 2,Ashley Unkenholz 2, Ellie Miller.
SAVES: WEST-Sara Tyssowski 13; MHEB-Georgeia Ryan 3.
SHOTS: Mount Hebron, 22-17.
DRAWS: 8-8.
GROUND BALLS: Westminster, 14-12.