Thursday, July 25, 2024

Lafayette High School Boys Soccer Wins State Championship

Lafayette High School boys soccer earned a state championship. (Jennifer Pitt/JLP Sports)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Lafayette Rams trophy case has a new addition after the 2024 boys soccer team brought home the state championship.

Fourth-year Lafayette boys soccer head coach Bobby O’Brien recalled the sadness and shock of losing in the state quarterfinals in the 2023 season — he and his coaching staff were sick of losing and knew that it was time for a change.

The Rams 2024 regular season got off to a 1 and 5 start, however, while five losses would cause many to worry, O’Brien was happy to note those five losses were against some of the top soccer teams in the area. Through that adversity, O’Brien started to shape a strategy for the remainder of the season, growing more comfortable shuffling his lineups to cater to his players’ strengths.

“It really gave us the idea for blueprints of what was working and what wasn’t working. After the sixth game, we were able to come up with a different lineup or substitution pattern that we could play around with and we started to see success. After that, we really started building on that success,” O’Brien said.

The Rams turned it around and won 11 games, suffered one loss, and had two ties.

Coach Bobby O’Brien celebrates alongside his senior captains Atticus Kamara, Michael Gallagher, Kai Moore, Jake Cantrell. (Jennifer Pitt/JLP Sports)

In the playoff run, the Rams crossed paths with Maggie Walker and Christiansburg high schools before facing undefeated Western Albemarle for the championship.

“We really played the underdog role, we don’t have any one superstar on our team, we just have a bunch of really good players. We are a great team that works hard for each other. We knew that in that game if we could compete with them, it would just increase our confidence,” O’Brien said.

The Rams went up 1-0 with ten minutes left in the first half, and Coach O’Brien said that in his halftime locker room speech, he didn’t have to energize his team, he just had to keep their eyes on the prize.

“My halftime talk was fairly easy. Usually, it is ‘we have to do this better and X’s and O’s.’ I really just said ‘there are 14 of you seniors that I’m looking at right now, these are the last 40 minutes of soccer that you are ever going to play with each other. You are winning the state championship 1-0 at halftime, it’s all about your will and your heart to keep the other team off the scoreboard.’ It was strictly an emotional ploy to them and they were ready to embrace that. I knew when I looked into their eyes at halftime, they were going to do everything that it would take to finish out the game,” O’Brien said.

At the final whistle, when Lafayette emerged victorious, O’Brien rushed onto the pitch to celebrate with his players and coaching staff.

“I’ve won a lot of championships in my life at different levels, state championships as a high school coach, club soccer championships, this was one of the sweetest victories mainly because of how we did it. We figured it out, it was just a great performance by everyone. We were all dialed in and we had a plan and to execute it against a team that was undefeated, that everyone said couldn’t be beat, and to win the way we thought we would have to win with a shutout, it really says a lot about our kids and their effort,” O’Brien said.

As the initial euphoria wore off and O’Brien was able to reflect, he wanted to ensure his players understood how truly special the moment was.

“I really told them that they are a special group. They made history, they should remember this for the rest of their lives, but also to look at the guy to the left and right of them and that they can do anything when you work for one another and with one another, and that at the end of the day, they are a team, instead of a collection of great individuals.”

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