The fact that the Fauquier High School boys soccer team had experienced the same scenario twice before did not make it any easier.
Rather, the Falcons' 2-1 loss to Handley on Wednesday may have been the most painful of their three consecutive losses in the Group AA Region II semifinals against their Northwestern District rival.
Long after the two teams had exchanged handshakes and a few hugs, the Fauquier players sat on their bench in uniform -- almost as if they were waiting for another period to start. But unlike so many of the Fauquier-Handley battles during the last few years, there was no overtime.
Only Coach Matt Zuras was able to muster a smile.
"They are pretty disappointed," Zuras said, surveying his stunned players. "It was a heck of a game. We went down swinging, and that's all you can hope for. They really wanted this one."
Next year, Fauquier moves up to the Group AAA Commonwealth District, so the Falcons knew Wednesday's game was their last chance at Handley.
"This is the biggest rivalry I've ever played in," said senior sweeper Matt Drayer, who fractured his right forearm early in the first half but remained in the game. "With this being the last time we play [Handley], we wanted to turn it around, but we have to be happy with the tournament and that's all."
In district tournament finals, the Falcons have defeated Handley the past three years. But despite Fauquier's disappointment Wednesday, Drayer kept things in perspective.
"I don't think a lot of people except us thought that we could win the district this year because we lost so many good players," he said. "Overall, I'm happy with the season because we came together and played well. Unfortunately, this is as far as we've ever gotten."
If there was any consolation for the Falcons, it was the mutual respect Handley had for them after the game.
"They are a great team," said Handley senior defender Ashton Cole. "We can't come in with any expectations when we play them. This is the third time in a row that we've beat them in regionals, but against Fauquier it is always close. We can play a great game and lose."
Fauquier (16-3) 1 0 -- 1
Handley (17-2) 0 2 -- 2
GOALS -- F: Kelleher 7th; H: Scully 50th, Marut 63rd.
ASSISTS -- F: Campbell; H: Wakeman, Utt, Scully.
SHOTS -- H: 13, F 10.
SAVES -- F: Popovich 6; H Earnhardt 4.