Throughout yesterday's Virginia AAA Northwestern Region boys' lacrosse championship against visiting Albemarle, Woodbridge goalie Brad Hester played like a man possessed. The senior made save after save trying to lead his team to the unofficial state title game.
Albemarle, however, played like a team possessed, and the Patriots' 16-1 victory put them in the title game against Northern Region champion Oakton on Saturday.
"They controlled the ball, plain and simple," Woodbridge Coach Steve Claiborne said. "We looked at tape of these guys yesterday and we knew what they were going to do, we just didn't execute."
Albemarle (16-2) executed from the get-go, scoring four goals in the first quarter on 16 shots. By halftime, the Commonwealth District champions had increased their lead to 9-0.
Patriots Coach Scott Neese pointed to precise passing -- primarily between junior midfielder Nolan Jenkins and sophomore attack Stephen Murray -- as the key to his team's offensive attack. Murray led Albemarle with six goals and two assists, and Jenkins added five goals.
But it was Neese's "let 'em loose" philosophy on defense that set the tone. The Patriots' constant crowding and double teaming stifled Woodbridge offensively. The Vikings (16-4) managed just 12 shots, most of which came from outside 10 feet; senior midfielder Dan Bamford scored their lone goal with just less than two minutes left.
"I just told our defensive guys to go out and play," Neese said. "They are a quick, strong and smart unit."
Despite the loss, Claiborne praised the play of Hester.
"He made us feel like we were in the game, even when we were down 9-0," Claiborne said. "I really thought this was going to be more of a defensive battle."