Sixteen seniors graduated from last year’s version of the Chantilly boys’ lacrosse team, which went 20-0 and claimed its first-ever Virginia AAA state championship. Starting this spring, little was expected from the Chargers -- or at least so it was perceived.
“At the beginning of the season everyone counted us out,” said junior attackman Brendan Waters. “Everyone said we lost 16 seniors and that we had no chance to come out here and win it.”
What Chantilly (12-1) won was its second straight Concorde District title last Friday by edging Westfield, 5-4, in double overtime, and Waters’ out-of-nowhere play was emblematic of the work that he and his fellow underclassmen have put in this season, filling the void left by those departed seniors.
With less than 10 seconds to play against the Bulldogs, Chantilly’s Joe Marson fired a shot on Westfield goalkeeper Alex Kawchak. The rebound, meanwhile, came bouncing out toward Waters, who scooped it up and beat Kawchak high from six yards out for the winner with only three seconds left.
Despite all the losses, players such as Robbie Bowers (team-high 22 goals as of Tuesday afternoon) and Devon Westerman (team-best 15 assists) have also assumed starring roles. Meanwhile, Steve Gombos leads the Chargers with 34 ground balls and has caused a team-best 21 turnovers.
“Our guys are stepping up and starting to come around,” Chantilly coach Kevin Broderick said.
As a team, the Chargers came around again during first-round regional action on Tuesday night, thwarting Jefferson with a 10-6 win. In the quarterfinal round, the Chargers will now play host to Annandale on Thursday night.
<b>IT’S REALLY</b> a slap-your-forehead sort of assessment, but senior goalkeeper Derek Kegerreis -- the lone holdover from last year’s squad -- is the last line of defense for Chantilly. If a ball gets past him, no less than 100 percent of the time does it end up as a goal.
So facing overtime, Kegerreis, who has made 145 saves this season and has a goals against average of 3.67, becomes even more of an asset to his team.
“He rises to the occasion,” Broderick said.
“If a goal goes in, you feel like you let the team down,” said Kegerreis, who finished with 18 saves against the Bulldogs and has been tabbed as a first team All-Northern Region pick for the season consecutive season. “I was just trying to do everything I could to make that last save.”
As the lone team captain, Kegerreis was primarily responsible for making sure the Chargers didn’t falter at the beginning of the year, which wasn’t exactly an easy task as Chantilly faced early-season dates with Patriot District champion West Springfield and Robinson. And with a win over rival Westfield and yet another dominant season underway, Kegerreis, a Lynchburg recruit, has managed to bridge the gap.
“I’m the one who’s supposed to get my team up when they’re down and keep motivating them, especially with all the talent we lost last year,” Kegerreis said. “It’s awesome to keep that tradition going.”
<b>FOLLOWING HER</b> team’s 13-6 win over T.C. Williams on Wednesday, April 29, Chantilly girls’ lacrosse coach Michele Gates had a simple message.
“As soon as the regular season ended, I said, ‘Enjoy your 14-0 season, ladies, because tomorrow at practice, we start again at 0-0,’” Gates remembered of that talk. “I told them that it didn’t matter what happened during the regular season. We had to be prepared because the postseason is another season.”
That other season was not all that kind to the Chargers early on. With the chance to avenge a last-second loss to Robinson in the 2008 district final, Chantilly allowed the Rams to score three answered goals in the final 5:30 and eventually lost, 9-8, last Friday in this year’s title game.
“We gave Robinson a chance to win the game and Robinson took advantage of it,” Gates said.
The fifth-year coach drew a parallel to the Oakton team from last year. Though bounced early from last year’s Concorde District tournament, the Cougars rebounded to capture both the Northern Region and Virginia AAA state titles.
“Oakton was a perfect example of going out early in the district tournament and then coming back and winning the state and region titles,” said Gates, whose team responded with a 18-8 win over Langley Tuesday and will face Annandale in the region quarterfinals Thursday. “Hopefully that motivates us.”