It didn’t matter that the Albemarle girls lacrosse team was already assured of a place in the state tournament. It didn’t matter that AHS was missing its starting goalie, Caroline Sheppard, and one of its best attackers in Jenn Wendelken. It didn’t matter that Wednesday’s regional final was being played in a driving rain, or that visiting Mountain View jumped out to a 4-2 lead midway through the first half.
Nothing was coming between the Patriots and the region championship.
“We had pretty much all odds against us coming into tonight,” Albemarle coach Brittany McElheny said. “The girls didn’t even think twice. The girls just stacked up and said ‘this isn’t going to get away from us.'”
Albemarle used an 8-0 run over about 10 minutes late in the first half and didn’t trail again en route to a 15-10 win over the Wildcats to earn a first-round bye in state tournament, meaning the Patriots are just two wins away from the ultimate prize.
The game, which was moved up half an hour to try and beat the inclement weather, actually started closer to its originally scheduled time. The teams felt each other out early, but a couple of Michaela Coghill goals gave the Wildcats the advantage. Then Albemarle made its move.
Morgan Rose was the main catalyst, notching four assists in the burst. She also had a goal, her second of the game, and the Pats also got two goals apiece from Anna Murray, Erin Keller, Kelsey Myers and one from Ashley Cramer.
The Wildcats stopped the bleeding 17 seconds before halftime for a 10-5 score at the break.
Perhaps more impressive was that the Patriots built that lead despite losing the first-half battle on the draw 11-4, a testament to their solid play in the defensive half of the field holding Mountain View scoreless during that stretch as well as the play of junior Daniella Bellot, who was pressed into goaltending action due to Sheppard’s absence.
Another lightning delay ensued at the half, and when the team resumed, the Wildcats tried to claw back. They got the deficit to 11-8, but then the Patriots rattled off two in a row, including Murray’s fourth of the game, to get it back to a comfortable margin.
“I think the weather fired us up a bit,” Keller said. “During the delay we were able to stay in the locker room, sing and dance, and stay pumped. The rain pushes us all harder.”
Perhaps no one enjoyed the win more than McElheny, who assumed the head coaching role in the middle of the season and has witnessed some significant growth from a roster that had a lot of top notch talent coming into the season.
“We’ve turned into a team. Before we were just a group of girls all wearing the same jersey. Now they’re an actual team,” McElheny said. “They play together, they have each other’s backs, and there’s nothing more you can ask for than a team that wants to play together and is coachable.”
Albemarle will host its state semifinal, taking on the winner of Mountain View and Freedom-South Riding Wednesday.