The Loudoun County Raiders broke the huddle before Tuesday’s Virginia 5A North region boys’ lacrosse semifinal with a vehement “Leave No Doubt!” They had learned that doubt can doom if you let it, a lesson taught by a big lead lost late in their conference semifinal, and they didn’t want any more of that.
But after the Raiders built another big lead on Tuesday, Stone Bridge charged back, bringing those doubts with them. This time, Loudoun County was ready. The Raiders fended off those late-game demons with a few crucial checks and a couple of timely goals, extinguishing the Bulldogs’ comeback just in time to hold on for a 9-8 win in a game played at Tuscarora in Leesburg.
The memories of a five-goal lead evaporating in the final six minutes against Woodgrove in a crushing conference semifinal loss “had been in the forefront of our minds since the day it happened,” Loudoun County Coach Dave Colangelo said.
“Any good team worth their salt is going to make a run, and you need to get one play or two to stem that tide,” he said. “Nobody stepped up in the Woodgrove game. . . . Tonight we got some great plays at the end, and you can start with the last one.”
The last one came with 30 seconds to play, when Stone Bridge’s Gus Capace carried the ball and his team carried all the momentum. As he cradled for space, Virginia 5A North player of the year Michael Rexrode knocked it away. Loudoun County had the ball, and doubts were vanquished.
“Thinking about the Woodgrove game worried me a little bit,” Rexrode said. “But since that game, our whole thing has been composure and poise and execution. We were able to keep it together just long enough.”
Connor Skyler, the Raiders’ freshman goalie, helped too. Skyler made 10 saves, sprawling or leaping or sticking away would-be equalizers again and again.
“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Loudoun County captain Sean Rogers said. “He plays like he’s got experience. He kept his head on straight, even when we were giving up a couple. He picked us back up with a couple big saves and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Stone Bridge (15-4) wouldn’t have been close at all if it weren’t for its goalie, Brian Failor.
But while Failor’s tremendous second half might’ve left Loudoun County (17-1) wondering how they’d ever get a ball past him, Raiders midfielder Kevin Rogers did it twice, providing the goals Loudoun County needed to survive and advance to play Loudoun Valley in the 5A North final Thursday at Tuscarora. . . .
Loudoun Valley trailed Broad Run at the half of the other 5A North semifinal but stormed back in the second, going on a 7-0 run in the last two quarters to earn a state tournament berth and spot in the final. . . .
The Loudoun Valley girls also advanced to the 5A North region final, beating Broad Run, 16-10, on Tuesday. The Vikings will face Woodgrove in the final on Thursday after the Wolverines beat Stone Bridge, 11-10, in the other semifinal.
In 6A South action, Osbourn Park edged Patrick Henry, 13-12, to advance to the region final and earn a slot in the state tournament. The Yellow Jackets will face Battlefield, which knocked off James River, on Thursday in the 6A South final.
Thursday’s 6A South girls’ final will also feature Osbourn Park and Battlefield. The Bobcats knocked off Patriot and the Yellow Jackets dominated Woodbridge, 23-6, in their semifinals Tuesday.