With the wealth of talent that comes through the Albemarle girls soccer program, it can be easy to look past any group of seniors because there are seemingly always young talents who’ve already worked their way into the lineup and in many cases big roles while those seniors are wrapping up their careers.
But looking past the Patriots’ current crop of seniors is nearly impossible to do. They’re the first group to play all four years with Amy Sherrill as their head coach and they’ve been extremely difficult to stop.
“It’s kind of cool because we started at the same time,” Sherrill said. “I was fortunate to take over when this crew came in. They’ve kept believing in me and it has been really cool to see it pay off.”
There was last year’s state final four run, and on a local level, the Patriots’ seniors never lost a district game. They enter Wednesday’s Conference 16 tournament semifinal game, the first postseason step on a path where they’ll try and build on last year’s semifinal sprint with a 64-0-1 Jefferson District record in the books, capped with a 9-0 win over Powhatan on senior night
On 65 nights over four years, despite seeing every different kind of defensive approach (including several 10-players-packed-into-the-box looks) and despite playing twice each season against another one of the state’s top girls soccer programs, the Patriots’ seniors haven’t lost.
“We’re going to miss them next year,” Sherrill said.
The quintet of seniors — Leticia Freitas, Hannah Eiden, goalie Aiyanah Tyler-Cooper, Brooke Bauman and Anne Ridenhour — play a variety of roles all over the field for the Patriots.
They have played this spring without defensive leader Ridenhour on the field after an injury late in basketball season cost her her final prep soccer season. Not surprisingly though, Ridenhour has made her presence felt.
“She’s our vocal leader, gets us hyped for every game, every practice,” Sherrill said. “She’s done everything we needed her to do.”
Eiden, who is headed for Coastal Carolina, has helped fill some of the void Ridenhour’s injury left, transitioning from her role as a finisher earlier for Albemarle earlier in her career.
“Her toughness is contagious,” Sherrill said.
Freitas has been a steadying presence at center forward for Patriots for years, playing a key role in the offense. She’s one of the area’s most composed players, rarely letting emotions get the best of her, all while taking an aggressive approach.
“She has a great skillset on the move and she has an attack-first mentality,” Sherril said.
Tyler-Cooper is a walking shutout at this point in net, allowing just three goals all season. The sterling, efficient defense in front of her obviously plays a big role in that as Tyler-Cooper can go entire games without seeing a shot, but the UNC-Greensboro bound keeper has a seismic impact on that as well.
“They play better because she’s there,” Sherrill said. “Her confidence runs through the whole team.”
Bauman has been a playmaker from the start, a talented, creative presence that has helped ignite goal after goal during her time in the midfield for the Patriots.
“She is obviously our most creative and dynamic player and she’s extremely tough,” Sherrill said. “She’ll run through anybody.”
Creative. Dynamic. Aggressive. Tough. Confident.
Those five adjectives describe the Patriots’ seniors individually, but they also sum up the class as a whole. They’re all tremendous talents who’ve also bought into the Patriots’ team concept rather than trying to do too much on their own. Those intangible qualities have percolated throughout the team, helping establish an identity for Albemarle girls soccer.
“They’re even better people,” Sherrill said. “They’re looking out for each other and their teammates. They represent Albemarle soccer with great class and that’s really nice to have.”
That combination is why you can’t look past Albemarle’s seniors. Opponents haven’t been able to in four years, and now those five get one last postseason to make another run. The final ride starts Wednesday night against Patrick Henry-Roanoke.