Varsity boys and girls lacrosse teams poised for success


Photo credit Diane

The boys and girls varsity lacrosse teams at Westminster have consistently been two of the strongest and most competitive athletic teams at the school, with 11 combined state championship titles in the last 20 years. This spring, both teams hope to continue the legacy of success following a shortened 2020 season.

Central to the success of the varsity lacrosse programs is the experience and leadership of the head coaches. The boys team is led by Coach Tony Souza, an experienced lacrosse mind and the winningest lacrosse coach in the state of Georgia, and the girls team is led by Coach Katie Trainor. 

Sadly, as was the case for all spring sports, the 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19. The boys got seven games in before the hiatus and held an impressive record of 6-1, ending the season with the momentum of a six-game win streak, while the girls ended the season with a record of 5-1.

With the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs, the LaxCats remain defending state champions and seek to defend their 2019 state championship title. With leaders such as senior captains Max Fritz (University of Pennsylvania commit), Dylan Farley (Harvard University commit), Steven Crawford (Amherst University commit), Russell Wagman, and Taji Flynn, the LaxCats’ roster is loaded with talent.

The defense is anchored by senior Duke Glenn, the starting goalie and lead communicator for the defense. This season will be Glenn’s second starting between the pipes. As a senior with starting experience, Glenn has been able to impart valuable advice to younger players, such as junior goalie and Glenn’s eventual successor, William “Manny” Maxwell. 

Crawford, Farley, and Fritz have been on the varsity team since freshman year and have contributed much to the program over the last four years. This year, they are joined by first-time varsity players such as junior Jacob Fleming and sophomores Johnny Fritz and Henry Izlar.

“This year, I think we have a good balance of senior experience along with underclassmen and first-time starters. We have a lot of guys who have been playing together since middle school and a ton of up-and-coming talent as well,” said Glenn.

Glenn added how this year’s team is different than last year’s, both personnel-wise and attitude-wise.

“We lost a bunch of really great seniors last year, but because of that, we have had a lot of opportunities for people to prove themselves and earn playing time. On the defense, [juniors] Jim Davis and David Maxwell are two guys who have worked really hard to get on the field and it has paid off,” said Glenn. “I also think that all the seniors have been supportive of everyone. As a team collectively, we all want to win and that shows.”

Senior attackman Drew “Bevo” Downes has been vital to the offensive success of the LaxCats thus far in the season. After leading the team in goals in the 2020 season, Downes is extremely optimistic for the future of this 2021 team.

“Our offense is extremely talented,” said Downes. “Each person is a potential threat with the ball, and so far, we have all worked together really well. Five of the starting offensive players are seniors, which helps with chemistry. On defense, we have been consistently fast, athletic, and loud. Both Hunter Wanamaker and Taji Flynn do a great job of directing everyone and making sure that the defense is a collective unit.”

Downes, like three of his senior teammates, is committed to play lacrosse in college, at Rhodes.

“Obviously, I am really excited to go and play at Rhodes just like the other committed guys,” said Downes. “We all worked really hard to get where we are. But right now we are all focused on winning the state championship this year and enjoying our last year playing with this team.”

Despite the defensive talent on the team this season, the team is missing star junior and long stick midfielder Denton Shamburger due to injury. However, other players have stepped up to fill his role on the defense, and Shamburger has assisted Coach John Wellford in running the defense during practice and games. 

The team is off to a hot 3-1 start, beating strong teams in Centennial, Pope, and Greater Atlanta Christian, and losing a nail-biter in overtime against a talented South Forsyth team. The LaxCats plan to come out after the break to finish the season strong and make a push for the state championship on May 13. The second half of the season is highlighted by games against competitive teams such as Blessed Trinity, Lambert, and nearby rival Lovett.

Like the boys, the girls team was dominant in their shortened 2020 campaign, finishing with a record of 5-1.

After the unfinished 2020 season, the girls lacrosse team lost several key seniors. However, the experienced senior class of the LaxCats has stepped up to fill the void left by last year’s graduating class. Senior leaders this season include captains Maddie Van Slyke (Denison University commit), Allie Woods, Olivia Bontempo, and Eleanor Carroll.

One of the biggest surprises for the girls team this year is senior goalie Jenna Brown. Brown has never played on the varsity or junior varsity lacrosse teams, but this year she starts as the only goalie on the team. Captain Allie Woods spoke on Brown’s superb performance thus far and her fearless attitude in stepping up for the team.

“Jenna has not played lacrosse since eighth grade, but she stepped up for us because we needed a goalie this season,” said Woods. “She is our only goalie on the team and has done an awesome job so far.”

Joining Woods in the midfield is freshman phenom Kate Quigley. Leading the midfield on both offense and defense as a freshman, Quigley has been a strong addition to this year’s squad.

“We have had a lot of underclassmen step up, such as Emmie Hunter and Kate Matheson, but Kate in particular has been a great starter and does a good job of leading by example,” said Woods.

Like the boys, there is a large underclass presence on the field, bringing many new faces and unique skills to the field. Quigley has worked together with the starting midfielders and uses a speedy athletic frame to dominate on the field.

Woods also noted some strengths and weaknesses of the team thus far, explaining how things are starting to come together as the season progresses.

“Right now, we are really working on improving our ground balls. It’s still early in the season and this is an area we have been working hard on in practice. One of our biggest strengths is working together cohesively and being a unified group” said Woods.

The starting attack line is a group of three seniors: Olivia Bontempo, Samantha Foshee, and leading goal scorer Maddie Van Slyke. The offense has been a strong point so far this season, as the LaxCats have put up 37 goals through three games, averaging more than 12 a game.

“I really think this team can go all the way. I’m really confident in our skills, and I think we will do really well in the postseason” said Woods.

The team is off to a 2-1 start heading into spring break and hopes to continue this success after the break.

Both the boys and girls lacrosse teams are loaded with talent this year and hope to make deep runs into the playoffs.