Prior to the 2010 spring boys' lacrosse season 15 months ago, Langley coach Earl Brewer wondered which of his players - those who had not been front-liners the year before when the Saxons had won their first-ever state championship - would step up to take on larger roles.
A bunch of key members of the '09 state championship team had graduated and Brewer realized his team would have a different look in 2010. As it turned out, numerous Saxons stepped up to the forefront. The result was a second consecutive state crown last spring.
Interestingly enough, Brewer had the same kinds of questions regarding his team going into the current season. A core group of prominent players had graduated and less experienced varsity players would have to step up. And, to the coach's pleasure, that has, once again, been the case. Langley has received solid, consistently good seasons from players who were not necessarily key players a year ago but have shined this season. So with the postseason set to begin this Friday night with the Saxons hosting Fairfax in a first round Liberty District tournament contest, hopes are high that Langley might be able to put together another memorable postseason. Friday night will be a playoff double-header at Langley with the Saxon girls set to play at 5:30 and the boys to follow at about 7:30.
Langley, going into this week, was 9-2 overall with just one final regular season game remaining - that contest set to be played at non-district opponent Oakton on Tuesday, May 3 - before the startup of districts later in the week.
"I feel pretty confident and I feel the same as last year," said Brewer. "We've had a lot of guys fill in [to bigger roles] who didn't play last year who have done a real good job. The same thing happened last year."
Going into the postseason, Brewer feels good about his club.
"We're pretty healthy," he said. "Luck and injuries play a big part in every season."
The team's only real serious injury this year occurred early on when senior attack Tanner Stack, who had put together a good pre-season and was vying for a starting position, suffered a season-ending knee injury just a couple of games into the regular season. Stack is healing nicely and is looking forward to playing in college at Chistopher Newport University next year.
<b>PERHAPS LANGLEY'S</b> most interesting season has come from junior attack Sean Ahearn, who a year ago enjoyed an outstanding season as a sophomore with 30-plus goals and 15 assists. This season has seen Ahearn's numbers turn around. He has not scored as many goals this season (16), but he has twice as many assists (32). Brewer said Ahearn benefited greatly in the goal-scoring department last year as a result of former teammates Ethan Bailey and Jack Lundeen, both since graduated, often getting the ball to him in scoring position. This year, Ahearn has taken on more of a set-up/assist role and has continued to blossom as an all-around player.
"It's a complete turnaround from last year," said Brewer, of Ahearn's statistical numbers and on-field role. "Basically, Bailey and Lundeen carried the ball last year and Sean finished. This year, he's carrying the ball."
This year, Ahearn, who is the first junior in Brewer's 17 years at Langley to be named a team captain by his teammates, has consistently gotten the ball to fellow attack standouts Mikey Adams, a junior with 27 goals and five assists, and Jack Sandusky, a senior with 21 goals and 15 assists.
"Sean has just been tremendous," said Brewer. "If he is out of the game [in a lopsided affair] he is always on the sideline supporting the backups. And he's always rallying teammates in tight games."
Brewer said Ahearn, who is an Eagle Scout, is the type of team member who will go around picking up balls around the field following practice - anything to set a positive example.
"He'll do whatever it takes to win," said the coach.
Adams and Sandusky have both put together impressive seasons. Adams is an outstanding shooter.
"His shooting percentage is over 50 percent, which is unheard of in lacrosse," said Brewer. "When he gets [in shooting position], he finishes. He's also been the recipient of a lot of feeds from Sean."
Sandusky, a spot starter last year, has become one of the team's top players. He scored four goals, including the game-winner, in Langley's overtime win over Chantilly over spring break. Sandusky seems to step up in big moments. In the region finals loss to Robinson last year, he received more minutes as a result of Bailey being out of the line-up with a concussion. He scored two goals and had a pair of assists in the title game loss to the Rams.
"I knew Jack was going to be a good player last year," said Brewer. "He was tremendous in that [Robinson] game. I knew at that moment Jack was a player. When you see a guy step up like that in a big game, you have so much confidence in him."
<b>IN THE MIDFIELD</b>, Langley has received stellar seasons from sophomore Luke Salzer (10 goals, 12 assists) and senior Davis Wagner. Salzer has blazing speed and runs the field extremely well. Last year, as a freshman, he scored a goal in the Saxons' state title game win.
"He's scoring and teams have to know where he is, he's so fast and quick," said Brewer.
Wagner, meanwhile, saw limited playing time last year but has been a part of Langley's first midfield this spring.
"He's done a tremendous job," said Brewer. "He just does real smart things on the field for us."
Leading the Saxons' defense has been Brenden Dwyer, who was recently selected as the District Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches. Dwyer, a three-year varsity starter and a team captain, will, like teammate Stack, being playing collegiate lacrosse at Christopher Newport next year.
"He locks down the defense and his end of the field," said Brewer. "He's not so much a vocal leader, but a leader by how he plays. He doesn't get beat and he doesn't make [mental] mistakes.
Dwyer has been the leader of a defense that includes younger players such as junior Chandler Suk (First Team All-District), who received limited playing time last year, and sophomores Brad Dotson (Second Team All-District) and Robbie Byrne (Honorable Mention All-District).
An outstanding year in the net has come from Andrew Spivey, a junior and First Team All-District selection.
"He has just stepped up and become a great goalie," said Brewer.
Senior Ryan Long, who is also headed to Christopher Newport to play lacrosse, has played well at goalie in a backup role.
Langley will be looking to win its fourth consecutive district title at the upcoming tournament. The Saxons finished first in the regular season district standings. There was a three-way tie for second place between Madison, Stone Bridge, and South Lakes.
"We're going to have our hands full at the district tournament," said Brewer, who, this past Friday, taught his final day as a physical education/health teacher at Cooper Middle School in McLean and is now retired. "It won't be a walk in the park."