Sam MCain (No. 10) congratulates some of his Battlefield teammates in last year’s season-ending loss to Langley. (Richard A. Lipski/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Battlefield boys’ lacrosse team defied expectations in 2011, winning its first Virginia AAA Cedar Run District and Northwest Region titles and advancing to the state quarterfinals. There the Bobcats suffered a heartbreaking 6-5 defeat in double overtime to soon-to-be three-time champion Langley — but rather than overshadow the team’s banner year, it validated how far it had come.

So this spring, Battlefield loaded up its non-district schedule with 2011 state tournament teams. The Bobcats (3-1) beat Briar Woods in a preseason matchup and took down Albemarle — a 2011 semifinalist — late last month. In between, they got another shot at Langley — and earned a similar result in an 11-10 loss. But for a team that lost its entire defense and 13 seniors in all, a narrow defeat to the state’s preeminent program only provided more fuel for the season ahead.

“Going into the Langley game last year, I don’t think that’s what we expected,” Bobcats Coach Kevin Marsh said. “It was a tough loss but experience-wise for the returning guys, I’d say it was very valuable. And the way we played opened us up to be able to play better teams this season.”

The Bobcats are idle over spring break, and begin district play with another highly anticipated rematch, at Stonewall Jackson on Monday. The Raiders were responsible for one of Battlefield’s other two losses last spring — another one-goal, overtime defeat. (Battlefield also dropped an early season game to Paul VI Catholic by one goal.)

Offensive continuity is carrying the Bobcats so far this spring as junior Ryan Swingle and senior Tyler Glenn lead an attack that’s averaging 10.5 goals per game. But fresh faces fill out a defense still rounding into form. Junior goalie Thomas Dean has been “surprisingly good” so far, Marsh said, while senior Clayton Shablom, junior Brian Eybers and sophomore Aaron Turner are establishing themselves as fixtures on a “defense by committee.”

The five-team Cedar Run District features a rare home-and-home round-robin regular season, which should provide the Bobcats ample opportunity to mesh.

“Playing every team twice is a real challenge,” Marsh said. “I expect we’re going to be a favorite, but that means we’re going to have a big bull’s-eye on our back.

“The guys who were here last year got a little taste of what we can do in the playoffs, and that made them hungry to get back.”