The recently completed postseason presented plenty of challenges for the Langley High boys’ lacrosse team. But through them all, the Saxons, just as they did in both their 2009 and 2010 playoff journeys, persevered and ultimately were the last team standing.
Langley captured its third straight Virginia state tournament championship on Saturday night, June 11. As three-time state champions, the Saxons, under longtime head coach Earl Brewer, have certainly earned high school "dynasty" status as one of the greatest all-time sports programs in the history of the Virginia High School League, the governing body of high school sports in the state.
The Saxons, facing a Northern Region rival, Chantilly, which has known its own share of postseason success in recent years (state champions in 2009; state runner-ups in 2010), made their stamp on the finals game early on and never faltered thereafter.
Langley, in the championship tilt played in front of a near-capacity crowd at Westfield High School, tallied the game’s first five goals on way to a dominating 17-8 win.
"We’ve worked hard and come together as a team," said Langley senior attack player Mike Adams, who scored nine goals to lead the three-time champions. "This feels awesome. I knew when we stepped up nobody could beat us. And we definitely stepped up tonight. It wasn’t any one individual. It was a team win."
Langley (19-3) started the postseason off with three consecutive wins at the Liberty District tournament, including a finals win over Madison High School on May 12. The Saxons than won their first two games — victories over T.C. Williams and Oakton — at the 16-team Northern Region tournament.
But a semifinals round upset loss to Annandale, 12-8, on May 23 at Oakton High School ended Langley’s region title hopes and put them in the uncomfortable third place consolation game versus West Springfield. At stake in the contest with the Spartans, a team experiencing a breakout season, was a berth at the eight-team state playoffs. The Saxons, putting away the disappointment of the loss to Annandale, rose to the occasion and handled the scrappy West Springfield squad, 11-7, to advance to states.
"That loss to Annandale definitely motivated us," said Adams. "I think [in the long run] it helped us."
At Battlefield High (Haymarket) in a state quarterfinals round game, Langley pulled out a gritty, 6-5, overtime victory on June 3. Then, in a rematch with Annandale five days later at Westfield High, the Saxons avenged their earlier regional playoff loss to the Atoms with an inspiring 10-7 triumph which put the Saxons back into the state championship game for a third straight year.
By that point, Langley, having tasted both good and bad moments during its five-week postseason march, was not about to be denied and handled the Chargers to garner their third consecutive state title.
"It’s surreal to win it again," said Langley junior goalie Andrew Spivey.
<b>THREE GOALS WITHIN</b> the first four minutes of play – scores from sophomore midfielder Luke Salzer (12-yard bounce shot off the right wing); junior midfielder Hunter Bentz (catch and shoot goal from close range); and Adams, who, off the right wing, flung a shot into the net from 10 yards out — resulted in an early Chantilly timeout.
The Chargers came back out and got off three good scoring chances, including a wrap-around, close range shot from senior Craig Penman, whose attempt hit metal and bounced away. But Chantilly could not break through into the scoring column.
A short time later, Adams, off an assist from senior attack Jack Sandusky, scored off the right corner from close range to make it 4-0 Langley. Less than a minute after that, Sandusky, on the move, sent a sizzling bouncer into the net from the right wing. That made the score 5-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the first period.
"I think they came into the game [rolling]," said Chantilly senior attack/middie Devon Westerman, of the Saxons’ fast start. "We were waiting for things to happen, waiting for someone else to make a play and that hurt us."
Chantilly’s Daniel DeCenzo, a junior attack, scored the Chargers’ first goal, a quick turnaround liner over his right shoulder off the right side, to make it 5-1, with 4 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Langley’s Salzer, shortly after a Langley timeout, scored from 18 yards out on a bouncer shot off the left wing to make it 6-1 Saxons, the score going into the second quarter.
"Coming out and leading 5-0, 6-1 and getting that much momentum, that was a great feeling," said Spivey, the Langley goalie who made several stellar stops in the net at the close of the first quarter as Chantilly was trying to gain some life. "I was confident. I had a few saves early in the game and that helped me."
Langley’s dominance continued throughout the second quarter as the Saxons scored the first five goals of the 12-minute session to build an 11-1 lead. Adams scored three of his team’s goals during that stretch.
Chantilly carried a little momentum into the half following scores from Cole Fitzgerald and Kyle O’Connor but the Chargers still trailed 11-3 at the intermission.
<b>THE LANGLEY LEAD</b> increased to 13-3 over the first five minutes of the third quarter. Chantilly then came up with its best scoring spell of the game, scoring three straight goals — scores from Kyle Louis, Westerman, and Penman — to get the Chargers within 13-6 going into the final quarter.
The Saxons put the game away for good early on in the fourth on consecutive goals by Adams and one from senior midfielder Davis Wagner to make the score 16-6. The final ended up being 17-8.
"We won the little balls, hustled to ground balls and Spivey played great for us," said Adams, pinpointing a few keys in his team’s win.
"They played a great game," said Chantilly’s Westerman.
Along with Adams’ huge scoring game, Langley also got two goals apiece from Bentz, Salzer, and Sandusky, as well as one apiece from Wagner and junior attack Sean Ahearn.
Chantilly goals came from Cole Fitzgerald, Kyle Louis, DeCenzo, O’Connor, Penman, Westerman and Nico Alcalde.
The Chargers (21-2), under coach Kevin Broderick, had an outstanding season. They lost just one time in the regular season – to Langley, 11-10, during a spring break game — and captured the Concorde District tournament crown with an 8-5 finals win over Robinson on May 12. At regionals, the Chargers reached the finals with wins over Mount Vernon, Woodson, and West Springfield. Then, in the region title game, Chantilly earned a nail-biter 12-11 win over Annandale.
At states, Chantilly won games over Patrick Henry and Albemarle High (Charlottesville) to reach the championship encounter with Langley.
"People didn’t believe in us and didn’t believe we’d be here [in the state finals]," said Westerman, of a Chantilly squad that had lost a number of solid players to graduation last spring. "But we won our district and the region. Everybody loved everybody out there. We were all brothers out there."