Brother's keeper

A bit of backyard sibling rivalry has helped brothers Travis Love and Ben Love lead Winters Mills to county and conference titles


May 13, 2007|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On the lacrosse field, brothers Travis and Ben Love each have played starring roles this spring for unbeaten Winters Mill, helping the Falcons to their first county and outright conference titles.

It's in their own backyard, however, where the goalie and attackman have waged some of their fiercest battles.

The Loves, two of six lacrosse-playing siblings -- ranging from 20-year-old sister and former All-County player Lindsay to 5-year-old stick-wielding brother Gabriel -- have spent countless hours honing their skills by shooting on each other behind their Westminster home.

"I always get the better of him, but he'd probably beg to differ," said Travis, a senior. "I think it definitely helps both ways. He knows where to go with [the ball] ... and it's helped me develop some of that instinct on close-in shots."

While Travis leads Carroll County in save percentage, Ben, a sophomore, finished the regular season among the county's top five in scoring.

Ben said that while the backyard sessions can get quite competitive, they also have had an immense impact on his blossoming career.

"As a goalie, he'll tell me the hardest places to save the ball, so that's where I'll always shoot," said Ben, adding that the two also motivate each other with words. "He'll always talk trash like, `If I was in your position, I'd score more goals than you have this year,' and I'll say, `If I was in your position, I'd get All-County, no doubt.' "

Trash talk aside, the brothers are two key cogs on a team that is vying to give the county its first-ever state boys lacrosse champion. Westminster and Liberty each previously advanced to the state finals, but fell in the title game in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Winters Mill (14-0 through Friday) is banking on its immense wealth of experience to change that.

Travis is one of five seniors -- along with midfielders Garrett Hill and Nick Leech and defenders Mike Boyd and John Hopkins -- who have held starting roles since the program's first season at the varsity level in 2004.

After finishing 7-9 their inaugural season, the Falcons have improved steadily and had gone 27-4 over a two-year span heading into yesterday's Class 2A-1A West quarterfinal.

"It's not very hard to coach because they have all the seasoning," coach Sal Picataggi said. "They were thrown right into the fire in ninth grade. They've experienced all the lows and the one-goal games and the timeouts in the fourth quarter to set up plays. They have all of that behind them."

Picataggi said Travis, 17, has been the glue of the squad, serving as a team captain since his sophomore year and improving his skills each season. This spring, he has allowed less than five goals a game, on average, while saving nearly 70 percent of opposing shots.

His effort has earned him a scholarship to Towson University, where next spring he will show off his lightning-quick reflexes and pinpoint accurate clears for coach Tony Seaman.

Ben, meanwhile, is making the most of his first season on the varsity, quickly establishing a reputation as one of the county's top finishers in the crease. Through Friday, Ben, 15, had racked up 36 goals -- the third-highest total in the county --and 10 assists.

"He's been proving himself day in, day out," Picataggi said. "It's been a bit of a surprise. I knew he had the talent, but we're such a senior-stacked team, that to crack that lineup was very hard."

This has been a particularly special season for the brothers, who for one of the rare times in their careers -- because of their two-year age difference -- are playing on the same team.

"It's really cool, actually," said their father, Stew Love, adding that the boys' sibling rivalry isn't all that it seems. "Sometimes they appear they don't get along well in the house, but outside the house they've got each other's backs."

Stew, who grew up playing baseball in Michigan, knew little about lacrosse until his older kids began playing the sport.

Now, he's been bitten by the lacrosse bug, as well, and he and wife Sallee -- a former player at Catonsville High School -- helped found the Westminster Area Lacrosse program about five years ago.

All of the couple's children have spent the better part of their free time experimenting with moves in the backyard, where the family keeps four lacrosse goals.

"My poor 5-year-old doesn't know what a toy is," Stew said. "All he's ever played with is a lacrosse stick."

The hard work seems to be paying off for all six.

Lindsay, a 2005 Winters Mill graduate, earned a scholarship to Boston University; 12-year-old Spenser is an up-and-coming midfielder and goalie; 9-year-old Coeli is a future girls standout and 5-year-old Gabriel --or "Bubba" as he's known --was cradling the ball with both hands by the age of 2.

"Quite frankly, I think my 5-year-old will be the best of the bunch, because nobody gives anybody anything here," Stew said. "With six kids, you've got to compete."

And Travis and Ben never back down from a good challenge, particularly against each other.

"In games I'll always give him a hard time if he gets stuffed by the goalie," Travis said. "I never shy away from putting my two cents in on what I think he should do different and where he should put the ball. Whether he listens to me or not, that's another story."

"We'll be right next to each other in the huddle. I'll tell him, `Great save, look for me on the clear,' and he'll tell me, `You've got to shoot better,' " Ben said with a laugh, adding that he relishes the situation. "It's a rare opportunity for anyone to say they played lacrosse with their brother, much less looking forward to winning a state championship with him."

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