For the first time in five years the T.C. Williams Titans returned to the Northern Region Tournament and just as quickly they exited, handed a 16-0 first round loss by a near perfect Langley squad.
Leading with three unanswered goals not four minutes into play, the Saxons had left the struggling Titans out of sorts, said senior attacker Robin Bomberger. They had already won the mental game.
“It was pretty frustrating, knowing we could play better,” he said. “We were rushed. It lowered our confidence.”
The 7-9 T.C. squad had earned a spot in the regional postseason contest by sweeping past Lake Braddock in an 8-5 Patriot District Tournament win 11 days prior. They’d been beaten by rival Annandale since, but a blowout against Langley wasn’t on their radar.
The Titans came into the matchup firing on all cylinders, said coach Mike Mulherin, but it didn’t take Langley long to throw a wrench in their gears. T.C. went down 3-0, then 4-0 a minute later and finally 10-0 before Mulherin yanked junior goalie Cameron Lyons in favor of his sophomore backup, David Davenport, late in the second quarter.
“It seemed like we lost focus and got a little intimidated,” Mulherin said. “At a certain point we needed to get someone fresh on the field. It wasn’t a knock on Cameron.”
The swap worked for awhile, the larger built Davenport fending off vicious attacks on net until the final seconds of the half. The Saxons’ Donald Aldrisson cut through the Titan defenders to get an open look at Davenport. He scored and the teams headed to the locker room with Langley enjoying a comfortable 11-0 lead.
It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last.
“[Langley] had a lot of fast breaks,” Davenport said. “I couldn’t depend on the defense to slide … If they’re really close, they can put the ball where they want to.”
Though Davenport would slow the crashing Saxons offense to six goals in the final 29 minutes of play, he, like Lyons, had little support on offense. Poor passing resulted in dropped balls and interceptions. Rushes stalled as quickly as they began, sending the blue-clad Titans scrambling back down field to catch up on defense.
Though T.C. doggedly kept on their Langley opponents, the Saxons found opportunities to strike where the Titans weren’t looking. A scant three minutes into the third quarter, T.C. had fought back yet another Langley rush and Davenport fielded the ball back out to his teammates.
Seconds later the Saxons were back in possession and ready to go. Sophomore Luke Salzar fired once and missed before capitalizing on a second opportunity out in front. Teammate Mike Allen scored 20 seconds later, his third notch of the night, and senior attacker Jack Sandusky made it 14-0 just over a minute later.
If the death knell for the Titans’ season hadn’t sounded earlier, it rang out loud then.
Frustrated, defeated and overpowered, the Titans could only wait for the seconds to finish ticking off the game clock. The game ended, fittingly, with the Saxons in possession of the ball and driving toward Davenport.
“Obviously nobody wants to end the season in a loss. Unfortunately tonight wasn’t reflective of our quality of play,” Mulherin said. “It wasn’t from lack of effort … We didn’t bring our best game.”
For Bomberger and his fellow seniors, it’s the end of their high school career on the lacrosse field. They had struggled together through a watershed of losing seasons before reaching their high water mark: the regional tournament’s first round.
“It was very tough,” he said. “Especially being a senior and this being the last high school game I’ll play.”
But for Davenport, the playoff loss means a step toward better things during his tenure on the Titan squad. Mulherin expects to field a younger, talented team in the years ahead and Davenport will carry his tournament experience with him.
“We could have played a little better, but they’re a hard team,” he said. “I learned a lot from this game. You can’t blame it on the defense and you can’t get mad. You can’t get mad at yourself. I try not to think [about the mistakes].”