The thought both consumed and confused Kyle Buresh. Just two wins separated Loudoun County from its first boys’ lacrosse state title and Raiders Coach Dave Colangelo was entrusting Buresh, who had yet to score a goal all season, to move into the starting lineup and serve as a sparkplug in the team’s Virginia 5A state semifinal against Western Albemarle on Tuesday.
“Coach pulled me aside after practice [Monday] and told me I’d be starting, and while I felt ready and honored, I was pretty nervous, too,” Buresh said. “It was always on my mind all the way up until the start of the game.”
Buresh’s nerves continued to bubble for the first eight minutes of the first quarter, all the way up until he gathered in a pass from Kevin Rogers, faked a high shot and then went low for a goal. The score broke an early tie and ignited the Raiders, who scored four more unanswered goals en route to a 15-11 win at Tuscarora High in Leesburg.
Loudoun County advanced to Saturday’s state title game at Lake Braddock to take on Albemarle.
Buresh finished with two goals and four assists and helped pace a Raiders attack that frustrated Western Albemarle out of its possession-based style offense.
“Once I got that first goal, I knew I could play with these guys,” Buresh said.
As the Warriors worked around the crease to find open looks, their opportunities were thwarted by the poking sticks of Loudoun County’s defenders and the counteractive play of Raiders freshman goalie Connor Skyler, who had 15 saves.
On the other end, the Raiders (24-1) rode the play of Buresh and Sean Rogers, who combined for all of the goals during a 4-0 run that broke open the game in the second quarter. While some of the scores were created off transition plays, Loudoun County also made a point to put together quality possessions that maximized the Raiders’ offensive depth and kept their defense fresh amid the muggy weather.
“We actually wanted to play more of a possession style ourselves, but we also weren’t going to turn away fast-break opportunities when we had them,” Colangelo said.
That was especially true with Noah Dewey gaining steam in the second half. The junior scored two goals during a dominant third period, including a buzzer-beating shot where Dewey wound up from the left side for a laser into the net. One period later, Buresh twice found Dewey on pinpoint adjacent passes in front of the goal to give the Raiders their biggest lead of the game at 14-6, allowing them to hang on despite a late rally by the Warriors.
“We did a good job of keeping the pressure on with the defense playing their butts off and then turning those opportunities into goals,” Dewey said. “It was a full team effort.”
Following a slow start in Tuesday’s semifinal at Albemarle in Charlottesville, Loudoun Valley (17-6) showed its resolve, fighting back from a four-goal deficit to tie the score early in the fourth quarter. But the Vikings’ rally wasn’t enough to muster victory as they fell short of their first state title game appearance since 2010 with an 8-6 loss.
“I’m proud of our players for the season they had,” Vikings Coach Logan Cutshall said. “We only have five players graduating from this year’s team, so I’m looking forward to coaching what should be a very strong team next season.”