A different approach for the Robinson Rams proved beneficial going into their Concorde District tournament finals game against the top-seeded and home team Chantilly boys last Saturday morning/afternoon, May 15.
The No. 2-seed Rams, going into the title match, had lost to the Chargers four consecutive times over the past few years, including a setback at last year's Virginia state semifinals. And earlier this season, Robinson had fallen to the defending district champion Chantilly team by a 9-6 score in a regular season road game on April 12.
So something needed to change for the Rams if they were going to turn the tables on their district rival. That change involved a mindset emphasizing that it really didn't matter whom the Rams were playing. What mattered was playing a good, fundamentally solid game across the board and enjoying the moment of playing for a championship.
The result, it turned out, was Robinson playing one of its best games of the season in a 9-4 championship game triumph, earning the Rams their first district tournament crown since 2007.
"We tried to take a very relaxed approach to the game," said Robinson head coach Justin Fitzgerald. "We wanted to keep our guys loose. We didn't want to focus so much on the fact that we were playing Chantilly. We have tremendous respect for them."
Saturday's game, postponed from the evening before when play never got started due to a thunderstorm, got underway at 11 a.m. under beautiful skies and in front of an excited, vibrant crowd. Robinson, for most of the game, seemed to be in command and the more physical team.
"They're a very talented team and well coached," said Chantilly head coach Kevin Broderick, of the Rams. "We just didn't have our `A' game today."
ROBINSON led 3-0 nearly midway through the second quarter and held a 5-2 advantage following a close range goal by senior attack Thurmond Shaw (off an assist from senior midfielder Drake Platenberg) early in the third quarter. But the Chargers got right back into the contest later in the third quarter on consecutive scores from senior attack Kevin Egan, the latter goal coming with three minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the stanza.
Just like that, Chantilly was right in striking distance.
But the Chargers' lost the game's momentum again less than a minute later when Robinson junior attack Jason Stein, after receiving a pass from behind the Chargers' net, found the net from five yards away to give the Rams a little breathing room at 6-4 with 2:36 remaining in the third.
"They just got a quick score," said Broderick, of Robinson's answer to Egan's back to back goals.
Robinson took that two-goal advantage into the final quarter. There, the Rams outscored the host team three goals to none on way to their 9-4 victory. Stein scored two of his three goals in that final quarter. Robinson's other goal in that fourth period came from junior midfielder Thomas Petrocci.
"It's a tough loss," said Chantilly senior midfielder Joe Marson, who scored one goal in the game. "I think Robinson played well as a team. We had a couple bad bounces on ground balls. We couldn't clear the ball [consistently enough]."
Robinson, in the win, had three goals apiece from Stein, Petrocci and Shaw. Earning the win in the net for the Rams was senior goalie Keenan Kevan, who made numerous key saves early on in the game when Chantilly was making several strong rushes.
Chantilly's scores came from Egan (2 goals), junior midfielder Devon Westerman and Marson.
Both teams are now set to move on to this week's 16-team Northern Region tournament. Chantilly was scheduled to meet visiting West Springfield earlier this week on Tuesday, May 18.
"We need to get our heads straight and forget about this one," said Travis Abatemarco, a Chantilly senior long stickman, following the loss to the Rams. "If we play our best lacrosse [at regionals] we can beat anyone."
Notes: The Concorde All-District Boys' Lacrosse Team was named recently. Chantilly had numerous players recognized. Chantilly players named to the First Team were: Brendan Waters (attack), Kevin Egan (attack), Joe Marson (midfield), Travis Abatemarco (defense), Billy Hicks, Brien Bracco and Matt Brandenburg (goalie).
Second Team selections for the Chargers were: Devon Westerman (midfield), Jared Golden (midfield), Cole Fitzgerald (midfield) and Andrew Bako (defense). And Honorable-Mention selections for Chantilly were: Luke Bowers (attack), Maris Gallegos (midfield), Craig Penman (midfield), Matt Melchiori (defense), Mike Dugan (defense) and Kevin Rudorfer. Kevin Broderick was named the District Coach of the Year.