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Westfield Bulldogs rally to beat Annandale Atoms in boys' lacrosse

By Matt Brooks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010; D06

Midway through the first overtime period of Tuesday's AAA Northern Region first-round matchup with Annandale, Westfield senior Forrest Fisher broke toward the front of the net intent on scoring the goal that would cap an improbable comeback and keep the Bulldogs' season alive. Westfield had trailed the entire game and entered the fourth quarter down 5-2, but Fisher scored three times in quick succession in the fourth to pull his team within one. The Bulldogs tallied again with six seconds remaining to force the extra period.

As Fisher strode toward the goal from the right side, drawing multiple Atoms defenders, he slung a pass to sophomore Michael Garcia for an open shot with a better angle. Garcia's effort beat Annandale goalie Bob Stevens, sending the Bulldogs into the region quarterfinals with a 7-6 victory.

Annandale (12-3) dominated from the outset, using its quickness to keep possession on the rain-soaked field and finding shooting lanes with good movement in the offensive zone. Ryan Miller, Nate Miller, Nick Lalande and Stephen Craig all scored in the opening half as the Atoms took a 4-1 lead into the break. After the Bulldogs briefly cut the deficit to 4-2, Nate Miller's second tally pushed the margin back to three goals and the Patriot District runners-up appeared in control.

But the Bulldogs (11-3) came out firing in the fourth as Fisher launched rockets at Stephens in the cage. The hulking attackman scored twice within a 90-second span to cut the lead to a goal. Moments after another goal by Craig, Fisher scored again to bring Westfield within one yet again at 6-5.

After Fisher was stripped in front of the cage in with less than 30 seconds left, the Bulldogs regained possession and following a timeout, senior Johnny Esposito scored to extend the game.

"We really couldn't possess the ball for most of the game but I knew I could take them," Fisher said. "I tried to use their dodges against them and just sprinted to the goal looking to shoot. On that last play, I knew I had guys on me and Michael was open, so I had to get it to him."

Westfield junior goalie Alex Kawchak held his own in the first half as the Bulldogs struggled to maintain possession and find their footing in a new defensive scheme. Annandale peppered Kawchak with 18 first-half shots from multiple angles, but the goalie maintained his poise, fending off nine of his 13 saves.

The Bulldogs will travel to National District champion Washington-Lee, a 10-7 winner over South Lakes, in a quarterfinal on Thursday.

"Alex is one of our constants," Westfield Coach Brian Dilley said. "If it wasn't for his play, we never would have had that opportunity to win the game in overtime."

In the first half of the Northern Region doubleheader, the Annandale girls rallied from an early 3-0 deficit and held off defending state champion Chantilly, 11-8, on the strength of three goals apiece from freshman Paige Britton and junior Katie Vu.

Elsewhere in the Northern Region boys' tournament, the Liberty District showcased its offensive firepower as the league's top three teams crushed their opposition from the National District. Defending state champions Langley rolled past Edision, 18-1, as Jack Lundeen and Jack Sandusky led 11 Saxon goal scorers on the night. Madison cruised past Mount Vernon, 20-4, with 11 scorers of its own in the third meeting between the two this season while the dynamic offensive duo of Derek and Dylan Maltz combined for nine goals and six assists in a 15-7 victory at Yorktown.

The Concorde District also held its own with league champions Robinson and runners-up Chantilly joining Westfield in the winners' circle. The Rams continued their strong defensive play in a 6-1 win over Lake Braddock while the Chargers took an early lead and never looked back in a 12-4 dismantling of No. 8 West Springfield. The Spartans, who won nine straight to open the season, finished the season with three losses in their final six contests.

First-time National District champions Washington-Lee held serve at home with a 10-7 victory over South Lakes and the Generals will host Westfield in the quarterfinals. Patriot District champions W.T. Woodson needed overtime to outlast Oakton, 7-6, but the Cavaliers advanced to host former Liberty District foes Stone Bridge Thursday night. The other second round pairings feature the last two state champions when Chantilly visits Langley and an intriguing matchup between high-scoring Madison and defensive-minded Robinson. All four contests are scheduled for Thursday.

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