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Breakthrough Season for Langley Girls’ Lacrosse team

Saxons captured district and region crowns this spring.

Langley’s best-ever girls’ lacrosse season came to a disappointing end on Tuesday, June 8 when the Saxons, one victory away from reaching the Virginia tournament state finals, lost a close contest versus Western Albemarle, 8-7, in a state semifinals playoff meeting which took place at Westfield High School.

The loss ended the Saxons’ season at 17-4. Langley had experienced a marvelous postseason run, capturing both the Liberty District and Northern Region titles with finals wins over Madison and W.T. Woodson, respectively. In all, Coach Richard DeSomma’s squad had gone 7-1 over the postseason.

“We played as a team and always as one,” said Langley senior goalie Mary Riley Pembroke, on the key to the team’s success this season. “We didn’t have a designated `star.’”

The region finals win – a 13-11 triumph over Woodson on May 26 at South County High School - had given the Saxons their first region crown in team history.

At the state playoffs, Langley followed up its region title outing with a dominating 16-6 win over Osbourn Park (Manassas) at Westfield on June 4. That decisive victory – in Langley’s first-ever state playoff game – advanced the Saxons to the meeting with Western Albemarle, a Region II team from Crozet, Va. and a member of the Jefferson District.

Langley, a red-hot team going into that semifinals contest, fell into an early 4-1 deficit against the Warriors and never quite recovered. The Saxons, who had fallen into a 2-0 hole less than five minutes into the game, found themselves trailing by the 4-1 margin following a Western Albemarle score with 12 minutes 39 seconds remaining in the first half. Langley’s only goal up to that point had come from sophomore midfielder Ellie Glasgow.

Langley, however, then came to life over the final 12-plus minutes of the half, outscoring the Warriors, 4-1, to go into the halftime in a 5-5 deadlock.

Langley’s Torrie Zarella, a junior attack, scored two goals during that stretch of play to help get the Saxons back into the contest, the latter score coming on a straight-range goal from six yards out, off an assist pass by teammate Nicky Pritchett from behind the net, to get Langley within 5-4 with 6:18 left in the half.

Zarella went on to finish with a team-high four goals on the evening. Less than a minute following her goal that got Langley within 5-4, the Saxons tied the game at 5-5 when Pritchett (1 goal, 2 assists), an energetic sophomore midfielder who always seems to be playing the game at a torrid pace, scored off the left side from seven yards out off an assist pass from senior midfielder teammate Elspeth McGarry (1 goal, 3 assists).

So at halftime, Langley, which had trailed by three goals (4-1 and 5-2) on two occasions of the first half, was right back in the contest.

<b>WESTERN ALBEMARLE</b> needed just 94 seconds of play into the second half to regain the lead with a goal to go ahead 6-5. But just over three minutes later, Zarella tied the score again, at 6-6, when she threw a close range shot into a wide open net.

McGarry was credited with the assist as a result of a crisp pass to Zarella from behind the goal.

Langley, though, could never get that go-ahead score in the second half as the Warriors, once again, re-gained their one-goal advantage with another goal to go ahead, 7-6, with 18:25 left in the second half.

Later in the half Western Albemarle gained some breathing room for itself with another goal to go ahead 8-6 with 10:44 remaining.

Over the game’s final 10 minutes, Langley’s offense went into high gear as the Saxons put good pressure on the Warriors’ defense with numerous rushes and shots. But on six occasions over that final stretch of the game, Western Albemarle goalie Christine Fortner either caught or knocked away Langley shots on goal. Finally, with just 46 seconds left to play, the Saxons got a score to get within 8-7 when Zarella, off a pass from Pritchett, broke free for a fast break goal off the left side.

Unfortunately for Langley and its encouraging fans that were on hand for the game, the Saxons were not able to score again and the Saxons’ season was over.

Western Albemarle went on to defeat Woodson in the state title game four days later at Westfield.

Langley’s season-ending loss to the Warriors was bitter because the Saxons, after falling behind early, had gotten back in the game. They just could never go ahead in the game.

“I thought we could definitely beat them,” said Pritchett. “We definitely had a chance. We started slowly and finished strong.”

Langley’s Pembroke, the senior net-minder, said the Saxons did not take their semifinals opponent lightly.

“We played hard,” she said. “At the beginning of the game we just weren’t playing as ourselves. It was the first time we were ever down 2-0. As the game went on we played better. We knew they were a good team.”

It was a fun, winning season for the Langley girls, who over the years have been somewhat overshadowed by the winning Saxon boys’ team, who won a second straight state title in their recent playoffs.

“It was kind of exciting for us to get out of the shadow of the boys,” said Zarella, of the girls’ breakthrough season. “But they were always an inspiration to us. We definitely worked as a team. I don’t think we could have done this well without the leadership we had on the team.”