Throughout its run to the Virginia AAA quarterfinals, Robinson had managed to find that last bit of magic to continue moving forward.
Four overtime games, one penalty kick shootout win. Somehow, that moment always came.
The belief, then, was that it would be there again on Tuesday evening against Thomas Dale. When the referee’s whistle sounded with two minutes remaining in the game after Rams senior forward Ryan Harmouche stumbled and then fell in the box, it looked like there was a little bit of that luck remaining.
“I thought that was it,” Robinson Coach Jac Cicala said. “I thought it was the moment, I really did.”
Instead, the referee pointed just outside of the 18-yard-box for a free kick. Harmouche’s ensuing free kick was blocked by the Knights’ wall, and soon after that the final whistle sounded on Robinson’s season with a 1-0 loss in Fairfax.
Robinson (13-4-2) got off to a slow start, and the Knights capitalized in the 18th minute on a goal from Dan Lauretano, a Virginia Tech recruit.
The Rams seemed to gain confidence toward the end of the half, and dominated much of the final 50 minutes of play. Each time, however, their chances were just off frame.
Several second-half bids from Mikael Belay dipped just over the crossbar, a Harmouche free kick screamed over the top and Harmouche’s quick move on a defender appeared to pay off when he was tripped only to fall – in the ref’s opinion – just inches short.
“I think we deserved to win,” said Rams goalkeeper Josh Penn, who also will play for the Hokies. “We worked twice as hard, if not three times as hard as them. We just couldn’t put one in the back of the net.”
The loss marked the final game at Robinson for Cicala, who is retiring from teaching in Fairfax County and thus cannot coach next season.
It is “tough because I’m going to miss it immensely,” Cicala said. “But [it is not] because it is a good way to go.”
●LAKE BRADDOCK 1, COSBY 1 (3-2 PK): Senior goalkeeper Aaron Fausser dove to his left in the sixth round of penalty kicks and made his fourth save, a staggering feat that had suddenly propelled the underdog Bruins to the AAA semifinals with a win in Midlothian.
As he got off the ground, however, Fausser wanted no part in a celebration. He turned and sprinted away from his teammates, over the track and outside a gate, which he closed and locked.
“After we beat South Lakes in penalty kicks [in the region tournament] I got mobbed,” Fausser said. “I wasn’t trying to get mobbed again this time. I didn’t want to get hurt for the state final.”
With its goalkeeper safe and sound, the hero of yet another remarkable win, Lake Braddock has time to take a deep breath before Friday’s semifinal round and consider its circumstances. The Bruins (11-9-1) will face Albemarle, which beat Grassfield 1-0, on Friday afternoon at Westfield.
On May 1, the defending Northern Region champion had lost six of seven games. The Bruins were staring at last place in the Patriot District. Now, 35 days later, they are two games away from a state championship.
“It’s unreal,” said defender Tyler Durbin, who buried the game-winning penalty that preceded Fausser’s final save.
Against the Titans (16-2-3), the Bruins took a 1-0 lead with just under 10 minutes to play on a goal from Aaron Hollins, and after conceding the equalizer with just three and a half minutes left in regulation, did not fold.
Instead, Fausser stepped up to stop four of the six penalty kicks he would face and the Bruins would play at least one more day this season.
●COLONIAL FORGE 3, FIRST COLONIAL 2: Senior midfielder Tim Clancy’s dipping full volley with five minutes remaining lifted the Eagles in a AAA quarterfinal in Virginia Beach.
But on a throw-in just minutes later, the ball glanced back toward Clancy, and he struck it with purpose from 20 yards out to put the Eagles through to the state semifinals.
“In all honesty it was the best high school goal I’ve seen,” Colonial Forge Coach Jeremy Sargent said. “It was the best individual strike I’ve seen.”
Colonial Forge will face Thomas Dale in the state semifinals on Friday at Westfield.