McLean boys soccer defeated by Langley in Regional Finals

Highlanders fall to Saxons 1-0 ahead of state tournament

Final: 1-0

The McLean boys soccer team traveled to Langley High School on June 3 to challenge the Saxons in the newest edition of the crosstown derby, one which was highly anticipated due to the high stakes which came with the matchup being the Virginia Northern Region championship. Despite putting up a strong battle, the Highlanders ultimately faced a devastating loss in the finals, with the deficit being only one goal as the scoreboard read only zeros in the time slot.

Prior to the game, McLean qualified for states and had been on a winning streak, giving them a hopeful mindset ahead of the opportunity to beat their rivals. With an enthusiastic crowd darkly decked out in accordance with the black-out theme, McLean went into the matchup with fierce determination.

“Before the game started there was a lot of excitement and I thought that we were gonna do very well, but there were some reservations from our last performance,” junior team manager Areeb Jackson said.  “There was some concern because we were away, but everyone was excited to play and ready to give all they had.”

The game started off slow, with the Highlanders and Saxons keeping the score locked at 0-0 throughout the first half as a result of stifling defense on both sides.

“We knew they were the best team we were going to play,” senior captain Nick Wanke said. “It’s a rival game and a regional final, so what more could we ask for?”

Early into the second half, the Highlander student section erupted as freshman forward Joseph Margita seemingly put the visitors on top with a beautiful goal. It was not meant to be, though—he was called offside, and the goal was taken off the board. Tensions increased as Langley came close to scoring, but McLean managed to keep up their defense with the help of senior Jacob Miller. As the second half came to a close, the score was still tied 0-0, forcing the players to go into overtime.

“I have never seen our boys working so hard in a game,” Wanke said. “We talked to each other and kept our heads up.”

During overtime, Langley managed to break through McLeans defense, bringing the score to 1-0 in a scrum surrounding the net where even the sharpest of eyes in the stands couldn’t see what was going on. Junior backup goalkeeper Wesley Connors had had a stellar night, stopping shots which seemed like surefire goals for the first 80 minutes. The late fracas proved to be too much for even his best efforts, and Langley took a lead they would not relinquish. Despite fighting hard, McLean wasn’t able to score before the time ended.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate that they lost, but I’m feeling hopeful for their states game,” senior Pari Eaton said. “They played well, and they looked good, but all you can do is move onto the next game.”

In preparation for the first round of the state championship tournament, McLean will look to improve on their communication and create new openings.

“The best that we can improve on for the next game is our communication on the back line or our ability to create more scoring opportunities because we can score and win easily, but we just need to create more chances,” Jackson said.

Despite the loss, McLean will still advance to states, and the team has gained experience to help them in their future games.

“The dedication from the team is very admirable and that we have greatly improved from the beginning of the season,” Jackson said. “I am ready and excited for us to play in states.”