My name is Jordan Ruby and I've been living in the DMV for five years and covering high school sports in the area for four. Varsity News is a weekly feature that reviews all the best local action in a single place, bullet pointed for easy digestion.
I'm not sure how a wedding metaphor will translate to the decidedly masculine world of Virginia high school lacrosse, but here goes nothing.
Up until the 2009 season Langley lacrosse had always been the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Coach Earl Brewer had enjoyed a lot of success in his time as the Saxons' coach without being able to capture the top prize. Plenty of regular season wins and deep runs into the playoffs, but no major championships to show for it. Seven times they reached the Northern Region championship game, and seven times they went home empty handed.
What must have been even more infuriating is that more often than not, Brewer and his team had to watch the team that had emerged from the Northern Region (be it Robinson, Oakton or Chantilly) take home the AA/AAA state crown. In many ways, they were the Buffalo Bills of Virginia lacrosse, and for a while it looked like that would be coach Brewer's legacy.
My how things can change in just two short years.
In 2009, Langley rode a strong defensive unit all the way through the playoffs, earning the first Northern Region and AA/AAA state titles in program history. Suddenly, the pressure to get the team over the top had been replaced by the pressure to keep them there. A state title was obviously tremendous for the Langley program, but it also meant that they would enter the 2010 season not just hoping for similar success, but expecting it.
If you've been reading Varsity News, and I know you have, then you know that Langley's title defense was a successful one that culminated with a 12-5 demolition of Loudon Valley in the state title game just a few weeks ago. Coach Brewer and and the Saxons went from the team on the outside looking in to the life of the party. From the team that couldn't quite get it done to the two-time defending state champions. From the 2005 version of Phil Mickelson to the current one, for all you golf fans out there.
But again, there is no rest for the weary, and I'm sure coach Brewer is already thinking about how he is going to guide the Saxons to the the three-peat. Luckily for us, he took some time away from that preparation to be a part of the SB Nation D.C. summer interview series.
SB NATION DC: Is it true that's it is harder to repeat than it is to win the first? If so, how?
EARL BREWER: Yes and no. Yes because every team that you play wants to beat you and raises their level of play to try and accomplish that. No because when the big games come both the players and coaches have been through it, experience under those conditions are very valuable.
SBNDC: Were you ever worried that the team wouldn't have the drive to get back to the title after winning the previous season?
BREWER: From Day 1 of the 2010 season we knew that we had the talent to get back, we had experienced the joy and satisfaction of being state champions and that was our end goal - the drive or I guess a better word would be the desire to be state champs was also there from Day 1.
SBNDC: What did you and your staff do to prevent that complacency?
BREWER: Honestly we did the same things we have done the past few years. We push them hard early on, get them in great "playing-shape" and through practice and game experience hope to raise their lacrosse IQ. We cut back on the length of practice once we started the playoff run, hoping to keep the guys with both fresh legs and good attitudes.
SBNDC: You lost some important seniors after last year's run, when did you know this team had the talent to repeat
BREWER: As the season progressed and the guys that stepped in to fill keys roles (Bryan Clubb, Ryan Miller, Jack Curry, Kas Semancik just to name a few) began to blossom, we knew we had the talent to make another run.
SBNDC: You lost to Robinson in the regional final game. What did that do to the team's psyche heading into the state tournament?
BREWER: I was very proud of how we rebounded from the loss to Robinson. Sometimes you are just not meant to win and that night Robinson was just a little bit better than us. We told the guys to of course learn from that loss but not to let it linger, let it go and move on, we had a bigger prize to capture.
SBNDC: On the flip side, what did the overtime win over Salem do to the team's confidence?
BREWER: Looking back I'm not sure if we took Salem lightly or did not just play well. It might have been a combination of the two, but take nothing away from Salem, they were outstanding that night. They were fast and athletic - just like us and those kind of teams give us the biggest challenge. Even not playing our best we beat a quality team. In playoff games there are not style points for wins, just survive and advance. We did just that.
SBNDC: Was that the most important game of the season for you?
BREWER: Again I would say that the Salem game was but also the first game of the year against Madison. We played a great second half and it set the tone for our great season. Winning is contagious.
SBNDC: You faced Loudon Valley in the state final, a team you had lost to already in the regular season, did that help motivate your team?
BREWER: We honestly thought after that game that we had lost the game. Again taking nothing away from our opponent, but we made so many unforced errors in that first game that we were confident that we could fix those mistakes and win the game.
SBNDC: Does the second championship feel any different than the first?
BREWER: If it feels different I haven't noticed. It is an amazing feeling to be the best, to accomplish the ultimate goal of every coach and team. I'm just very happy for everyone associated with this program from the players to the parents, my staff, our athletic department and the entire Langley student body - they love and support our team and we love them!
SBNDC: What does the repeat mean for the Langley program?
BREWER: It means that all of the hard work we do from playing in the off season to conditioning, just everything we do pays off. It also shows that a school not known for it's athletic prowess can succeed with dedicated young men, good coaching and a plan for success.
SBNDC: Moving forward, how will you approach next season when you have the opportunity for the three-peat?
BREWER: We will try and do the same things in 2011 as we have done the past few years and that is play great defense, play uptempo lacrosse and push the ball up the field. We have some big shoes to fill but we have some talented young players that are just waiting for a chance to play.
SBNDC: How will you evaluate success next season, is it championship or bust?
BREWER: If we don't win the state next year I guess some people may look at it as not a successful year, I'm not sure I buy that but like a line in a favorite song of mine goes, "If hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor." We are in a good place right now at Langley. We have a great support system, a good feeder system with Great Falls and Mclean Youth supplying us with talented players and a winning attitude. We hope to keep it going in 2011!
Thanks to Coach Earl Brewer for his answers and his time.