The George Mason boys' soccer team found motivation Saturday afternoon, several hours before the Mustangs were to play for the Virginia A championship.
The players and coaches sat in the stands at Radford University and watched the George Mason girls' soccer team win a state title with a 3-1 win over Clarke County. They also watched some other spectators -- the George Mason boys' tennis team, whose players showed off their gold trophy after defeating J.I. Burton for a state title of their own in the morning.
"When our boys saw the tennis team bring over that trophy, while they were watching the girls win [a state title], I know they were saying to themselves: 'We are not going to be the only ones who bring home a silver one,' " assistant boys' soccer coach Frank Spinello said.
That night, the boys defeated Clarke County, 1-0. George Mason Athletic Director Tom Horn believed it was the first time the 611-student Falls Church school had produced three state champions in one spring season.
"It's remarkable," said Horn, who has been at George Mason for eight years. "We've usually sent three or four teams to the state tournament and we often take two titles, but we've never won three."
Northern (Virginia) Lights
As his team was wrapping up a 3-2 win over Centreville in the June 4 Virginia AAA Northern Region final, W.T. Woodson girls' soccer coach Sean Burke sensed the Wildcats would be waiting for his team again in the state final.
Burke's gut feeling proved correct eight days later when the teams met in Newport News in the fifth-ever all-Northern Region state final.
"Everyone expected to see them," Burke said. "We were preparing for another 80-minute war with them."
Northern Region dominance in girls' soccer is nothing new. The Cavaliers became the 19th school from the region -- which includes all public high schools in Fairfax County, Arlington County and the city of Alexandria -- to win a state title in the 21 years of the tournament. At least one Northern Region school has made the final every year. The farthest south the AAA state championship has traveled is Woodbridge, winner in 1988 and 2000.
This spring, Northern Virginia soccer excelled well beyond the AAA girls' bracket.
West Springfield and Langley had a Northern Region final rematch in the AAA boys' state final, won by the Spartans, 1-0. It was the fourth straight year that a Northern Region team played in the state final.
In the AA girls' final, Loudoun County schools Potomac Falls and Broad Run met for the fifth time this season. George Mason of Falls Church swept the Group A soccer titles -- beating Clarke County both times.
Of the six teams competing for girls' state titles Saturday, the southernmost school was Centreville.
"Teams might go through stretches," West Springfield boys' coach Randy May said, "but I think Northern Virginia is going to turn out a team that's going to contend for a state title every year."
Future Bright for Westfield
Westfield baseball coach Chuck Welch doesn't view his team's 3-2 loss to Western Branch on Saturday in the Virginia AAA championship game as a disappointing ending so much as a promising beginning.
Next spring, the Northern Region champion Bulldogs (20-7) figure to be one of the state's best teams again, complete with a strong core of players expected to return, most notably All-Met shortstop Brandon Snyder (nine home runs) and left-hander John Lloyd, both rising seniors.
"If nothing else, we got a taste of the big time," Welch said yesterday. "We played in several pressure games. Hopefully, this experience will make them want to work hard to get back to that level."
Steven Ellis, Val Arduini, Justin Bour and Adam McDermott -- all of whom played vital roles in the Bulldogs' run -- also are expected to be back next year.
Two other Northern Virginia baseball teams that lost in the state tournament appear to have bright futures: Fauquier, the Region II champion and AA state quarterfinalist, and Sherando, a AA state semifinalist.
Fauquier (19-7) should have its top three pitchers -- junior John Sinclair (7-3), sophomore Michael Manfro (6-1) and freshman Brandon Bartlett -- back next year, as well as sophomore catcher Zac Caito (team-best .372 batting average).
Sherando (18-10), meantime, is expected to bring back its top hitter, Drew McCormick, and ace pitcher, Matt McCarty, who had four postseason victories.
Lacrosse Remains Unofficial
Virginia boys' and girls' lacrosse teams will have to wait until at least the 2006 season to play for a state title sanctioned by the Virginia High School League, according to VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley.
On Saturday, the Oakton boys' lacrosse team and the W.T. Woodson girls' lacrosse team both won unofficial AAA state championships. VHSL rules call for the state to hold official state tournaments in a sport "when fifty percent plus one of the schools and two regions within the same group sponsor that sport in the same season."
Of the 301 VHSL schools, 61 currently play boys' lacrosse and 54 play girls' lacrosse. Of the 61 schools playing boys' lacrosse, 45 are AAA schools -- roughly 38 percent of the 118 AAA schools in the state.
"It certainly has the potential in the next couple of years," Tilley said.
The VHSL executive committee can add state tournaments for sports like lacrosse that do not meet the above requirements, but Tilley said he did not know of any such plans at the moment.
"Next year won't be any different than this year," he said.
Staff writer Tarik El-Bashir and special correspondent Jake Schaller contributed to this report.