In the end, Langley’s 12-5 Virginia state tournament boys’ lacrosse title game victory over Loudoun Valley last Saturday night, June 12 at Westfield High School probably came easier than the Saxons expected.
For a squad that has experienced numerous down-to-the-wire postseason games over the past two seasons – including an OT triumph over Chantilly at last year’s state finals – the reality of a relatively lopsided state championship game affair probably did not seem realistic for the Saxons.
But Langley, which has persevered through a tough postseason against talented, motivated opponents determined to knock off the defending state champions, finally experienced a game where it controlled play from start to finish. The Saxons, in Saturday’s state finals, played hard, played with passion and played an all-around sound game to capture their second straight state crown.
“By far it was our best defensive game we’ve played,” said Langley goalie Andrew Spivey. “The scouting report by the coaches was so good.”
Langley, a day prior to the championship game, gathered as a team and watched a video of its regular season 8-7 overtime loss to Loudoun Valley back on March 30 in Purcellville.
“We watched game film and looked at each other and asked, `How did we lose that game?’” said Langley coach Earl Brewer, smiling at the recollection.
It was no slight against Valley, the Northwest Region champions and a talented all-around team. What stood out to Brewer in watching film of that first meeting with the Vikings was the unforced errors his squad made in that contest – the Saxons’ only regular season loss of the season.
“I thought we had to eliminate the unforced errors against them [in the state finals],” said Brewer.
Langley did just that, playing a much better game against the Vikings than it had during the early regular season meeting. Of course, that was to be expected. After all, the Saxons were a much better team at year’s end than they had been earlier in the spring.
“We played pretty sloppy against them during the season,” said Spivey. “Now, we’re a totally different team.”
Compared to some of its other games earlier in the postseason, the state finals game was a lopsided affair for Langley. In the Liberty District finals, Langley edged Madison, 10-9. Then, at regionals, the Saxons had tough, close game wins over both Chantilly and Westfield before losing in the region title game to Robinson in overtime on May 26.
Despite the finals loss to the Rams, Langley still qualified for the state tournament. There, Langley continued to play close games, barely getting past a tough Salem High (Virginia Beach) team in overtime, 13-12, on June 5, before earning a hard-fought, low-scoring win over Northern Region foe W.T. Woodson, 7-5, on June 10 (see the Woodson game story at connectionnewspapers.com, at Great Falls sports).
So, naturally, in Saturday’s finals, the Saxons were expecting another close affair against a Valley team which had already beaten them once.
“We had lost to Valley before and knew it would be a tough game,” said Langley senior attack Jack Lundeen, of the Saxons’ mindset going into Saturday’s game.
<b>BUT IT WAS NEVER CLOSE</b>. Langley jumped out against Valley from the start with three first quarter goals to take a 3-0 lead. The Saxons dominated ball control over the first 12 minutes. Meanwhile, the Vikings could not maintain possession, continually turning the ball over as a result of Langley’s tenacious play or unforced mistakes.
Langley increased its lead to 4-0 early in the second quarter off a Sean Ahearn catch-and-shoot score from six yards out. Lundeen, from behind the net, passed the ball to Ahearn to earn the assist on the score.
Valley finally scored its first goal of the game just over a minute later to get within 4-1. But the Saxons, in the low-scoring second quarter, tallied the final goal of the 12 minute stanza on a nifty, 12-yard shot by senior midfielder Joey Byrne (4 goals, 1 assist), who was moving left to right across the goal area when he released the ball.
So, at the half, Langley held a 5-1 lead. The game’s next goal did not come until midway through the third quarter when Lundeen, off a pass from Bryan Clubb (1 goal, 1 assist), scored from eight yards out to make the score 6-1 Saxons.
Later, early in the fourth quarter, Langley held an 8-3 advantage following a score from Byrne, off an assist from Mikey Adams. After the Vikings got within 8-4, Langley reeled off four straight scores – the goals coming from Byrne, Clubb, Ahearn and Robbie Bennett – to put the game away at 12-4.
Langley’s huge turnout of student fans, seated in a section on the visitors’ side of the stadium, was in all-out celebration mode over the game’s final eight minutes as the Saxons were, by the second, closing in on their second straight title.
A Loudoun Valley goal with two seconds remaining hardly squelched the Langley victory party. At the game’s final whistle, the Saxon players on the bench sprinted out onto the field to join their teammates. There was unbridled, spontaneous celebrating as players hugged one another and pointed towards family and friends watching from the bleachers. Saxon Nation was whooping it up.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Spivey, who played outstanding in the net for the Saxons. “Two years in a row is pretty special.”
Spivey, a backup goalie on last year’s state title winning team, said he experienced some early game nerves before settling down.
“Before the game I tried not to think of it being a state championship game,” said the sophomore. “I felt the pressure early on but then got a few saves and settled down.”
He said the loss to Robinson in the region finals might have ultimately gotten the Saxons better prepared for states and ultimately winning another state title.
“We had won 17 games in a row up until the Robinson game,” he said. “Maybe we got a little ahead of ourselves [against Robinson]. It humbled us.”
Humbled, but not eliminated, the Saxons put the loss to the Rams behind and regrouped for states.