“Leave no doubt” was written on the back of the Loudoun County boys’ lacrosse team’s jerseys, on a banner in the stands and on the window of the team bus. The team’s motto was plastered nearly everywhere at Lake Braddock on Sunday, but it provided no solace for the Raiders in the immediate aftermath of their 11-10 overtime loss to Albemarle in the Virginia 5A championship game.
“Honestly, I don’t even think it’s hit me yet,” Loudoun County senior captain Sean Rogers said. “I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened.”
The goal that left Rogers and his teammates stunned had hit the back of the net just minutes earlier.
Alerted by his teammates and coaches that the first overtime was nearly complete, Albemarle attackman Kevin Bernadino sprinted from behind the net past the right post and took his shot. His game-winning goal went in with just four seconds left on the clock, knocking every Loudoun County player on the field to the ground in disbelief.
Minutes earlier, it was the Raiders (19-1) who appeared in control. Loudoun County, which led for almost all of regulation, surrendered two two-goal leads in the fourth quarter. The Patriots (21-1) then tied the game with less than three minutes to play.
With the game tied late in regulation, the Raiders failed to capitalize on a one-minute man advantage.
In overtime, they came up empy on each of their two possessions.
All of it, the missed opportunities and the blown leads, added up to a particularly bitter pill to swallow.
“It’s tough to lose, of course, but when you’re that close,” Rutgers-bound defenseman Michael Rexrode said, pausing to fight back post-game tears. “It’s heartbreaking, to say the least.”
It was Rexrode who was tasked for much of the game with defending potent attackman Matt Crist.
Crist, a senior, finished with six goals but was denied the ball on Albemarle’s victorious final possession. Rogers scored three goals to lead the Raiders and Kevin Rogers added two.
The sting from Sunday’s loss will fade over time, Loudoun County Coach Dave Colangelo told his team in a post-game meeting, and the team’s run to a first state final will remain an impressive feat.
“I think what they’re grappling the most with is that, in some respects, they let one slip away. And that feeling will eat at you for awhile,” he said. “The disappointment they’re feeling right now is that we were certainly good enough to compete and felt like we had the best team.”