The frustration festered for Langley’s boys’ lacrosse team as it digested its halftime pep talk in the sweltering afternoon heat of Wednesday’s Virginia state semifinal at Westfield. For the second time in three weeks, the two-time defending state champion found itself trailing Annandale, this time with its season on the line.
Fueled by a desperate desire to defend their title, the Saxons exploded out of the intermission, using unrivaled depth, defensive pressure and a revived fast-break offense to dominate the final two quarters and earn a 10-7 victory. The Saxons will meet Chantilly, an 11-7 winner against Albemarle, in Saturday’s final.
“They took a shot at us last time and they did it again but we weren’t going to let it end the same way,” Langley junior Sean Ahearn said. “We’ve been in so many of these games this year, we know how to battle back and we proved it again tonight.”
Just as they did in their stunning region semifinal win, the Atoms came out firing, grabbing a quick 2-0 lead. By the time senior all-American Nate Miller scored his lone goal in the second quarter, Annandale led 5-1. With a deliberate attack and stellar goaltending from Joe Bermingham, the Atoms appeared in control, but Langley picked up the pace and pressure in the third quarter.
Ahearn (two goals, four assists) rifled home a goal to tie the game at 7 with three minutes left in the third and then fed Michael Adams (six goals) to cap a string of clinical fast-break passes and give Langley its first lead. With 3 minutes 30 seconds left, junior Chandler Suk absorbed a cross-check to strip an Annandale attacker and allow the Saxons (18-3) to run out the clock.
“We came out physical as hell” in the second half, Suk said. “We know that in states it’s one and done, so we’ve just got to suck it up and play hard.”
In the second semifinal, Chantilly was also forced to play from behind as Albemarle used a physical opening 24 minutes to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.
But the Chargers (21-1) scored five consecutive goals to start the third quarter and controlled possession the rest of the way to secure a spot in the final. Senior Luke Bowers scored four times and junior Daniel DeCenzo added three goals and two assists as Chantilly won its 12th straight since an 11-10 overtime loss to Langley on April 19th.
Saturday’s title game features two programs with the last three state titles, and Chantilly — the 2008 champion — is eager to end the Saxons’ two-year reign.
“I think we just came out a little soft in the first half, maybe thinking we could push them around,” DeCenzo said. “From the start we knew who we would be playing [Langley] if we won tonight and I think that threw us off a bit. I hope Langley is ready, because we want this real bad.”