“Shoot!” Chase Miller’s Loudoun Valley teammates called as he crossed the midfield line, in the final seconds of the Dulles Group boys’ lacrosse championship game Thursday.
“Goalie’s out!” screamed the fans in the Loudoun Valley stands, who had warmed up their voices for those crucial final seconds on every close call that went rival Woodgrove’s way.
But as he charged toward the cage, watching the Wolverines’ goalie retreating a few steps ahead of him, Miller didn’t need any instructions. Before anyone could get set in the crease, the senior wound and fired a shot that came from deep and went straight into the back of the net. A few seconds later, his Vikings were conference champions after edging Woodgeove 9-8, and had sealed a region tournament berth on a goal as strange and unexpected as the game it decided.
“When that ball went in. . . I don’t know. . . it was crazy,” senior midfielder Matt Regan said. “We were so hyped. They’re our crosstown rival. To me it’s more than just a district championship. We love beating them.”
This season’s second edition of the always-heated clash of Purcellville rivals would have been physical anyway given the familiarity-bred animosity between the teams. But the ball seemed electrified Thursday night on a choppy Loudoun Valley field, reluctant to stay in sticks looking to dig out ground balls, entirely unwilling to stay secure through checks of any kind.
In the first half, Woodgrove (13-5) seemed to win all the scrums, forcing the ball away from the Vikings (14-4), opening up a convincing 4-0 lead. By halftime, it was 7-3, and Loudoun Valley’s play grew sloppy as the game grew increasingly chippy.
But early in the third quarter, midfielder John Skinner scored a goal between his legs — “no one saw it coming,” Regan said — a perfectly unexpected moment in a game full of them, and one that steadied the Vikings.
“They’re a straight momentum team, and so we got them off their momentum,” said junior Sully Warner, who scored two goals. “Then we got our own.”
Slowly but surely, ground balls that had gone Woodgrove’s way early began to stay in Viking sticks. Balls began to bounce Loudoun Valley’s way, including one errant pass which knocked off a defender’s stick and into Warner’s. He buried it to bring the Vikings within one. A few minutes later, Michael Shouse had tied it. Miller’s goal capped a 5-0 run and gave Loudoun Valley the tournament championship and a berth in the regional tournament next week.
“I’m not going to say it was the best looking game, we both had our sloppy moments,” Regan said. “But we came out of it.”