In the moments after the Oakton boys' lacrosse team wrapped up its second consecutive unofficial Virginia championship Saturday with an 18-12 victory over Albemarle, Cougars' senior All-Met Quinn Cooke was asked how the second title compared to the first.

"It's awesome," Cooke said. "It's better than the first time."

Cooke, the dominant attackman who had three goals and four assists in the title game, will take his skills to the University of Maryland next year. But he was one of just two senior starters and 12 seniors overall on the Cougars' 39-player roster this year. The bulk of Oakton's team will be back next season, meaning a third straight title is not beyond the realm of possibility.

"I think so, yeah," said Oakton Coach Tony Gray when asked if his team could pull off a three-peat. "There are a couple spots we need to refill, but if the kids work hard, I think we have a good chance to be back in a position to be here."

Oakton finished the season on a 14-game winning streak, but its road to the state title was anything but easy. The Cougars had to overcome three-goal deficits in the second halves of both the Virginia AAA Northern Region semifinals and final.

But the experience the Cougars gained from playing in those games will only help them next year. Junior Matt Silton scored the overtime game-winner against Robinson in the region semifinals on a pass from sophomore Sturgis Sobin. Junior Cody Grimm won critical faceoffs throughout the playoffs. And sophomore C.J. Ward made several point-blank saves in the second half of the state final to subdue potential Albemarle comebacks. All those players will be back next year.

"We were worried [at the beginning of 2004] about the experience because we had such young guys," Gray said. "But we figured if we could get them to gel as a team, we'd be pretty good. And they gelled a lot better than we thought."

Oakton's Jake Ruppert (second from left) and Cody Grimm (far right) scramble for the ball during the Cougars Northern Region title game win.