As the Loudoun Valley boys' lacrosse team dominated Western Albemarle for a 13-5 victory in the Region II championship game Thursday night, the present and future of the Vikings program were on display at opposite ends of the field.
The Vikings' senior-led defense -- goalkeeper Peter Ford and defensemen Cameron McWhinney, Peter Jarvis and Nathan Hayba -- suffocated the Warriors for the final three quarters. Western Albemarle scored only twice in the final 36 minutes.
Meantime, the core group of players expected to return next year showed that the Vikings' program is in good hands. Sophomore Tom Schonder had four goals, and juniors Conor Duggan and Colin Wauchop added two apiece. Sophomore J.D. Harkey won all six faceoffs in the second half.
"All of us sophomores, we've been playing together for a while, and we're comfortable together," Schonder said. "But the seniors have shown us what to do and how to do it right."
The total team effort led to the Vikings' stunningly easy win over Western Albemarle, which had ousted Loudoun Valley in the semifinals in each of the past two years. In 2003, Western Albemarle overcame a late deficit and won, 10-9, in double overtime.
After the first quarter Thursday, Loudoun Valley and Western Albemarle were tied at 3. But the Vikings methodically pulled away, producing the kind of lopsided result that had been commonplace during the Dulles District schedule but was not expected against Western Albemarle.
Without a Virginia AA tournament, Loudoun Valley (18-0) ended its season with the first region title for a Loudoun County school since lacrosse became a varsity sport three years ago.
For a long stretch of the game, Ford was unbeatable in the cage. He made 15 saves and allowed no goals during a 23-minute stretch of the second, third and fourth quarters, when the Vikings scored seven straight goals and built a 12-4 lead.
Ford credited McWhinney and the rest of the Loudoun Valley defense for his success.
"They're the heart and soul of this team," Ford said. "They've helped me out a lot to get better, and they keep everyone focused."
Whereas the Vikings only infrequently had close games against Dulles District foes, McWhinney said he knew he and his teammates would have to be on top of their game entering the Region II tournament.
Loudoun Valley passed its first test Tuesday against Salem in the semifinals, scoring four goals in a minute on its way to a 13-9 victory. The Vikings completed their task Thursday against Western Albemarle.
"To come from this district and to win a close game against an established program, we started to really believe this was possible," McWhinney said. "That was a big step for us."