First round Virginia state playoff wins last week had both the Langley High girls' and boys' lacrosse teams one step closer to potential 2010 state champion status this week.
The Langley girls, who have never before qualified for the state tournament, overwhelmed Osbourn Park (Manassas), 16-6, in a girls' quarterfinals round contest on Friday night, June 4. The Saxons (17-3), who on May 26 captured their first-ever Northern Region tournament title with a 13-11 finals win over W.T. Woodson, were scheduled to meet Western Albemarle (Crozet) on Tuesday evening, June 8 in a state semifinals game. That game was slated to be followed by the second girls' semis contest — Woodson versus Loudoun Valley. Both games were set to take place at Westfield High School. The girls' state title game will be played at Westfield this Saturday, June 12 at 6 p.m.
The Saxons, in their decisive quarterfinals round win over Osbourn Park, dominated from the start.
"Our team played well and we had enough of a lead where we were able to play our backups in both the first and second half," said Langley head coach Richard DeSomma.
The coach said his team is made up of a special group of girls.
"What has gotten us further [than in the past] is the girls' themselves, their attitude and spirit," he said. "They like each other and they are a happy group that work hard in practice and enjoy the game. They have a good balance."
Langley's three senior team captains — goalie Mary Riley Pembroke, midfielder Elspeth McGarry and defender Natalie Doran — have done an excellent job leading an overall young team that includes 16 players who are either sophomores or freshmen.
"Sometimes you get [good team captains], and sometimes you don't," said DeSomma. "These girls represent the team and the girls and have good relationships. There are no chemistry issues. This is a young team, too, with five sophomore starters. We have a good practicing team with good lacrosse IQ. They hear [directions] and they apply it."
Langley's style of play is more methodical. The Saxons like to set up their offense and work the ball around.
"Control [is the key]," said the coach. "We like to control the game with our passing. But we do have enough skill that when we do decide to go in for a score we have a 70 percent shot to score ratio."
Of all of his teams' strengths, DeSomma said the most important quality is that the Saxons play together.
"They play as a team," he said. "That is their No. 1 strength. That's really our key note."
In the win over Osbourn Park, McGarry led Langley with five goals and three assists. Other good scoring games came from sophomore midfielder Nicky Pritchett (4 goals), junior attack Nicole Burkart (3) and junior attack Torrie Zarella (3).
<b>WHEREAS THE LANGLEY</b> girls' opening round state playoff game was lopsided in nature, the Saxon boys' quarterfinals round game versus Salem High (Virginia Beach), a 13-12 Saxons' overtime win, was a nail-biter.
Langley's Sean Ahearn, a sophomore attackman, came from behind the goal to score from close range with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the 4 minute overtime session to break a 12-12 tie. This gave Langley a dramatic win to keep alive its hopes of successfully defending last year's state title.
Saxon senior attack Jack Lundeen was credited with the assist on the game-winner, in which he and Ahearn executed a basketball-like give-and-go play.
"They ran a little play," said Langley coach Earl Brewer. "Jack curved behind the goal [with the ball] and Sean set a pick like a basketball play. Then Jack passed the ball to Sean, who took two or three steps and shot."
It was the second straight overtime game the Saxons have played in the postseason. In its region championship game against Robinson on May 26, Langley could not hold onto a lead late in regulation and ultimately lost to the Rams, 11-10, in overtime.
With the win over Salem, Langley was set to meet Northern Region opponent W.T. Woodson in a state semifinals game at Westfield on Wednesday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. It was set to be the first meeting between the two teams this season. The other boys' semifinal game pitted Brooke Point (Stafford) versus Loudoun Valley at 5 p.m. Brooke Point upset Robinson in a state quarterfinals game last week.
<b>LANGLEY</b>, in the game with Salem, trailed 7-4 at halftime and 8-5 during the third quarter. The Saxons came back to tie the score at both 10-10 and 11-11 before taking the lead at 12-11 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But immediately following the go-ahead goal, Salem answered by winning the ensuing face-off and taking the ball down the field and scoring the equalizer to eventually move the contest into overtime, where Langley won.
"These guys have played a lot of overtime games," said Brewer, of his squad. "Overtime is about who has the most left in their legs at the end of the game. Salem didn't have a very deep bench."
But Brewer went on to say that Salem, a member of the Eastern Region, has an outstanding team.
"They were as good as any team we've played this year," said Brewer. "They are well coached, physically tough, athletic and very fast."
Langley did not fall apart once it got behind by three goals at the half and in the third quarter.
"I don't think our guys ever got down," said Brewer. "There was never any panic - maybe they were just a little ticked off on the sideline. Three goals are not hard to make up in lacrosse."
Ten different Langley players scored in the win, led by Ahearn's three goals and Lundeen's two scores (and four assists). Single goal games came from junior midfielder Troy Scharfen (1 assist), senior midfielder Jack Curry, senior midfielder Joey Byrne (2 assists), senior attack Ethan Bailey, senior midfielder Ryan Miller, senior defenseman Robbie Bennett, junior attack Jack Sandusky and senior midfielder Bryan Clubb. In the net, Saxon goalies Andrew Spivey (7 saves) and Ryan Long (2) had good games.
One huge factor in the win was the clutch play of Langley sophomore midfielder Spencer Gorham, who won 12 of 18 face-offs.
"Spencer was definitely one of the keys to us winning the game," said Brewer, who added that Gorham earned a game ball with his exceptional play. "He's just a sophomore and hasn't played a lot this season. He's been primarily a face-off guy this year. He's a big, strong kid and works very hard on face-offs."