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Cavaliers Return to Prominence

Woodson boys’ lacrosse, after a couple down seasons, made it to state semifinals.

Following a couple of down years, the W.T. Woodson High boys’ lacrosse team broke through for an outstanding season this spring. The Cavaliers, under longtime head coach Jon FitzGerald, captured the Patriot District tournament title, advanced to the Northern Region semifinals and also went to the Virginia state tournament semifinals where their season finally came to an end with a 7-5 loss to powerful Langley.

The season-ending loss to the Saxons took place last Thursday, June 10 at Westfield High School. Woodson, one win away from reaching the state title game, finished the season 14-5.

Langley went on to successfully defend last year’s state title by defeating Western Albemarle, 12-5, in last Saturday night’s championship game.

Woodson, since becoming a program in 1988, has won 11 district titles, four region crowns and three state championships under coach FitzGerald. But going into this season, the Cavaliers, who last won a region crown in 2006, had struggled to win consistently the past two years. So FitzGerald and his 2010 squad were determined to return among the state’s elite teams again this season.

“The last two years we haven’t won too much and that gave us inspiration to return to glory,” said FitzGerald, who has over 300 career coaching wins. “We really put the team back on the map.”

After a successful 7-4 regular season, the Cavaliers won three straight district tournament games, including a 13-10 finals win over Annandale at Lee High School on May 14.

Then at the 16-team regional tournament, Woodson edged Oakton, 7-6, in a first round game before defeating Stone Bridge, 12-7, in a quarterfinals round game. That put the Cavaliers into the region semifinals where they lost a tough 11-10 game to Robinson on May 24 at West Springfield High School.

Because three teams from the Northern Region advance to states, Woodson had to play Westfield on May 26 to determine who the third seed from the region would be to advance. The Cavaliers, who had fallen to Westfield, 13-12, in the final game of the regular season, defeated the Bulldogs, 8-4, to earn a place in the state playoffs.

In its first round state playoff game on June 5, Woodson traveled to Osbourn Park (Manassas) where, in front of a large, partisan home crowd, the Cavaliers defeated the Yellow Jackets, 9-6.

That moved Woodson into the state semis meeting with Langley.

<b>THERE, THE CAVALIERS</b>, in a defensive affair, never had a lead. Langley, this year’s region runner-up, broke out to a 4-1 lead after one quarter and held a 6-3 advantage at the half. Following a scoreless third quarter in which neither team could convert on several scoring chances, Langley added on to its margin with a goal by senior midfielder Joey Byrne midway through the final quarter to make the score 7-3.

Woodson’s offense came to life after that. Sophomore midfielder Scotty Williams, upon receiving a pass from senior middie Tyler Stellwat, fired in a straight-on shot from eight yards out to get the Cavs within 7-4 with 5 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. Less than two minutes later, Woodson scored again when junior attack Clayton Wainer, on the move with the ball, found the net on a sizzling grounder off the left side from 10 yards out to make the score 7-5 with 2:58 left.

Woodson had a few more good scoring chances thereafter but could not get any closer as the Saxons won to advance to the championship.

Wainer scored two goals to lead the Cavaliers, while teammates Stellwat, Williams and senior attack Davis Mayberry each scored one. For Langley, Byrne scored three goals.

Other goals came from Mikey Adams, Jack Curry, Ryan Miller and Sean Ahearn.

While Woodson’s season ended with the loss, the Cavaliers had put together a stellar, winning postseason in which it went 7-2.

“We have so many good players,” said Woodson defender Logan Hancock. “We’re all so close and we worked hard this season. But tonight [against Langley]we didn’t turn out to be the better team.”

Coach FitzGerald said his squad was playing its best lacrosse at playoff time.

“Our offense and defense clicked at the same time,” he said. “That translated to some impressive wins.”

For Langley, which lost to Robinson in the region finals for only its second setback of the season, all was right again. The Saxons were back in the state finals. A year ago, they defeated Chantilly in the state title game in overtime. This time, they would win with relative ease over Western Albemarle.

“Losses every now and then do us good,” said Langley senior attack Ethan Bailey, reflecting on the loss to Robinson. “It kind of motivated us [for states]. We were kind of on cruise control.”