Eleven days after it started, Kevin Larrabee's summer vacation will end tomorrow.
Early in the morning, Larrabee, who set a Virginia AAA record with 16 shutouts in a season to help Hylton win its second straight state title in boys soccer, becomes a plebe at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Last week, he watched an orientation video sent to him by the Army's prestigious academy.
"They tell you what your four responses are: `Yes, sir'; `No, sir'; `No excuse, sir'; and, `Sir, I do not understand,' " Larrabee said. "The only thing that scared me was that first day. One minute you are having breakfast with your parents, and the next minute you are theirs."
Despite the fact that his father, Scott, attended West Point and his oldest sister, Beth, is there now, Larrabee did not seriously consider an Army education until this spring.
"I was looking at a lot of other schools, but I hadn't really gotten any great offers for soccer," Larrabee said. "The more I looked at West Point, the more I realized it's free; it's a great education; it has Division I soccer. These are all things I want in a school."
But besides sacrificing a large part of his relaxation time after graduation June 17, Larrabee also had to miss a chance at another milestone in his soccer career. His club team, the Washington Diplomats, captured the Under-19 state championship and qualified for the regional tournament in Rhode Island yesterday and today. Reporting for plebe summer tomorrow, however, meant missing regionals, a realization that struck Larrabee just before he chose West Point.
"They don't really make exceptions," Larrabee said. "I was like, `Geez, this is going to be it. I'm not going to be able to go, and they are going to have to do it without me.' "
Larrabee's longtime club team, the Prince William Stars, qualified for regionals twice but never won the tournament, which would have meant a trip to the national semifinals. The Stars, which included several Hylton players, folded last summer, which added to the sweetness of the Bulldogs' 1-0 sudden-death victory over Oakton in the Virginia AAA state final.
"I think it will probably mean even more when I am older and I look back and see two straight state championships -- wow," said Larrabee, who lost a close vote with Kempsville midfielder Chris Burgess for state player of the year honors. "But I just think it's great that our senior class, after going through so much together, got to go out on a win."
A week after the state title game, Larrabee learned that he had set the state record for shutouts, previously held by Kempsville's Tony Faticoni, who had 15 in 1987. Part of what motivated Larrabee to get shutouts -- and not merely victories -- was seeing some of his closest friends who were reserves on the team waiting to enter the game.
"David Baldini told me all the time, `You are the most important player on the field. If they score, then we don't play. Just keep that ball out of the net,' " Larrabee said. "All those guys worked so hard in practice, and they wanted to play so badly. If it was 3-0 in the second half, they would play. But if it was 3-1, they wouldn't, so I'd say most of my shutouts were for them."
Baldini said Larrabee's unselfish attitude did not go unnoticed. He said unlike many goalkeepers, Larrabee was not an eccentric loner.
"He is just a regular guy, and he has always been real down to earth," Baldini said. "He was such a calming influence on our team, especially in the back. We always felt we were in control with him back there, and he always helped everyone feel part of the team, no matter how much or how little they played."
Growing up in a military family taught Larrabee what it was like to be an outsider. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1981; moved to Petersburg, Va., in 1983; Woodbridge in 1985; Kansas in 1986; Germany in 1987; Poquoson, Va., in 1989; Panama in 1990; and finally back to Woodbridge in 1994 -- all before eighth grade. Playing on sports teams was the easiest way to make new friends at each location.
"Living in Germany was a major reason why I got into soccer," Larrabee said. "I played other sports there, but soccer was the sport. It was everything."
Larrabee's goalkeeping career began as a sixth-grader in Panama, where he played in a league that included sixth- through 12th-graders.
"I think that's where I got confident with goalkeeping," Larrabee said. "I was saving really hard shots from big kids, and I even saved a penalty kick in the championship game."
That game in Panama was a foreshadow of the 1997 state championship game, in which Larrabee saved two penalty kicks in a postgame tiebreaker to lift Hylton over West Springfield.
Although living on military bases most of his life gave Larrabee an inside look at the lifestyle he will encounter at West Point, he said that playing for Coach Ken Krieger may have been his best preparation yet.
"With Mr. Krieger . . . he gets mad and shows it -- he yells and screams. I've learned to deal with it. He makes you strive for perfection, and that's what West Point is all about."
Larrabee cannot help but attribute his success at Hylton to fate when he considers all the variables that fell into place.
"My parents bought a house in Woodbridge in 1985, before there were even plans to build Hylton," Larrabee said. "My dad always wanted to retire there, and then it turns out I get to play for Mr. Krieger and the best high school team in the state. . . . I think everything happens for a reason."
Larrabee did not get to travel anywhere particularly exciting over his abbreviated vacation, but considering all the places he has been, perhaps spending a week at the beach with his friends was the best he could hope for. As for missing regionals, Larrabee shrugged it off as unfortunate.
"It's kind of the way my life has gone," he said. "There will always be change, and good things and bad things are always going to happen. When something bad happens, you can sit in a corner and pout about it, or you can make the best of it."
CAPTION: As an Army brat, Kevin Larrabee moved from city to city, which often made him feel like an outsider. Playing sports was the best way for him to make friends, he says. As goalkeeper for Hylton, Larrabee, had a record 16 shutouts his senior season.
CAPTION: Hylton goalkeeper Kevin Larrabee will continue his soccer career at West Point, an Army school his father attended and his sister is enrolled at now.