2014-06-18 / Sports

Victory in defeat

County teams fall short during championship week
By Jim McConnell

Midlothian's boys soccer players deal with the disappointment of a runner-up finish after losing in the final of the Group 4A state tournament. Midlothian's boys soccer players deal with the disappointment of a runner-up finish after losing in the final of the Group 4A state tournament. There were few dry eyes as Ted Jones addressed his weary, heartbroken players moments after Midlothian’s boys soccer team fell 1-0 to Loudoun County last weekend in the Group 4A state final.

Senior goalkeeper Tyler Tormollen, seated directly in front of Jones, took it especially hard.

Just a couple minutes earlier, Tormollen nearly had made the save of his life, diving to his left and getting one of his padded gloves on a point-blank shot by Loudoun County’s James Moreno. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the ball from rolling into the net with only about five seconds left in the match.

For the Trojans, that was the difference between going to overtime with a chance to win a state championship and ending the season with a devastating loss.

“This game that I love so much,” Jones said, “can also be one of the cruelest.”

Many local teenagers, their coaches and family members learned that lesson the hard way last week – and not just on the soccer field, either.

An unprecedented nine teams from Chesterfield high schools qualified for the state tournament in their respective sports during the 2014 spring season:

James River sent both its boys and girls tennis teams to the Group 6A semifinals.

Midlothian had state qualifiers in boys and girls soccer, as well as boys and girls tennis.

Cosby reached the state tournament in three sports – baseball, softball and girls soccer.

But by Sunday night, only one of those squads – Midlothian girls tennis – had managed to make it through the weekend unscathed.

The near-misses were especially painful for Cosby, whose teams were among the state title favorites from the opening day of preseason workouts.

Behind Virginia Tech-bound standout pitcher Chelsea Whitcomb, Cosby’s softball team won its first 24 games and needed just one more victory for its second state championship in three years. Instead, the Titans fell 4-1 to South County.

Cosby’s baseball team also had its ace pitcher on the mound when it faced Chantilly in the state semifinals. Hunter Williams, who has signed with the University of North Carolina, pitched well but surrendered a run in the bottom of the seventh inning as Chantilly claimed a 3-2 victory.

Cosby’s unbeaten girls soccer team fell behind Centreville 2-0 in a state semifinal match, hit the post twice and mounted a furious rally before suffering a season-ending 2-1 loss.

The Titans’ three state qualifiers finished with a combined 64-4 record this spring, but no state titles.

Asked earlier this season about what it takes to reach the pinnacle of high school sports, Cosby baseball coach Tim Lowery was prescient when he noted that superior talent isn’t always enough.

“You have to have some luck,” said Lowery, who led Clover Hill to a state championship in 1994. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”

Midlothian’s boys soccer team already knew that all too well. Last season, the Trojans lost to eventual champion Mount Vernon in the Group AAA state semifinals.

Fourteen players who suited up for Midlothian in that game returned this season. With eight seniors and six juniors on their roster, the Trojans knew that this was their best chance to win it all.

“We wanted it so bad,” said Tormollen, who was inconsolable as he left Liberty University’s Osborne Stadium Saturday night.

Neither Midlothian nor Loudoun County suffered from a lack of desire during the Group 4A final. Both teams left everything they had on the field. Near the end of a physical match that featured more fouls than scoring chances, the Raiders caught the Trojans off guard with a quick counterattack and netted the only goal they needed.

“We knew it was going to come down to the end,” added Midlothian midfielder Harrison Lawrence. “I thought we were going to get one in the last few minutes, but it didn’t happen that way.”

Following the trophy presentation, Jones gathered his players and assistant coaches for one final post-match talk before they went their separate ways. He told them that he was proud of the season they’d had, that they had played and represented their school with class.

After Jones finished talking, assistant coach Harold North spoke up.

“Welcome to life,” he told the players. “Things like this will happen and you have to learn how to rise above it.”

According to Jones, the lessons learned in both victory and defeat are “the beauty of sport.”

“It hurts today,” he said, “but it makes you stronger tomorrow.”

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