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Riverside lacrosse wins another state title despite losing its top player

Class 5 boys’ lacrosse: Riverside 15, Briar Woods 3

From left, Riverside's Evan Boswell, Benny Kasoff and Ethan Lakis pose after their team's Class 5 championship win. (Spencer Nusbaum/FTWP)

Riverside midfielder Benny Kasoff played just three minutes in Saturday’s Virginia Class 5 boys’ lacrosse state final before the senior grabbed his left knee and went to the ground. Just a few days after he was named Region 5D player of the year, Kasoff saw his high school career end about an hour earlier than expected as he limped off the field and left the area’s most dominant team without its most dominant player.

“Me and him are basically peanut butter and jelly; that’s my best friend,” senior Evan Boswell said. “Seeing him go down, we just wanted to play for him, and I wanted to go all out for him.”

Boswell scored four goals as he and the extra-motivated Rams secured their fourth state title in five seasons with a 15-3 win over Briar Woods at home in Leesburg.

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The team’s versatile offense, which averaged 17 goals per game and had four players finish the year with at least 50 goals, again delivered. With Colton Jones (six goals) and Chase Paschuck (five goals) the other prolific scorers, the Rams finished the season having won 16 of their games by double digits.

Riverside (20-1) was used to putting away games early, and this one was no different, even without Kasoff. Employing an offense that more often calmly made extra passes rather than running in transition, Riverside went ahead 4-1 midway through the first quarter.

By halftime, the lead had grown to 7-1. Even after a season of blowouts, the Rams were ready for the adversity that came with the absence of their top player. They tested themselves with grueling Saturday practices that featured long hours of running, weightlifting and competition.

“We wake up early for those 8 a.m. Saturday practices; we get into it and chirp each other a little bit. But that’s what we build for, for this Saturday,” said Kasoff, who was unsure about the nature of his injury. “People were chirping us from the stands, but we’re prepared for that because of those Saturdays.”

State titles are the standard at Riverside, according to Coach Nick Worek, who said former players who come back to visit the team occasionally joke that the high school program is tougher than their college teams.

Briar Woods (15-6) spent much of the game struggling to get past Riverside’s defenders and let 24 minutes transpire between its first and second goals. The Rams beat the Falcons two previous times this year.

Once the Rams’ 12th goal zipped into the net, this one courtesy of Paschuck on a behind-the-back shot with two seconds remaining in the third quarter, the home crowd and its cowbells reached peak excitement.

Each year Riverside stamps itself with what makes that particular group unique. The 2017 squad was the “misfits,” 2020 was supposed to be the school’s “best” team before the pandemic hit, and 2021 was its “most disciplined.” This year, the players said, featured the most camaraderie.

“It’s just a brotherhood,” Kasoff said.