Back On Top: Western girls lacrosse wins second-straight state title

Photo by Logan Riddick

Although the 2024 VHSL Class 4 Girls’ Lacrosse final was a rematch of an early-season contest where Western Albemarle rolled Rockbridge County 15-7, the first ten minutes of Saturday afternoon’s game showed this one would be a battle. As the Wildcats grabbed a 3-0 lead and fired up their crowd from Lexington, Warriors’ head coach Peggy Williams spent a timeout to regroup.


“Rockbridge has improved a lot since we played them,” said Williams. “They’re just a smart team, they’re well-coached and they hustle. Anytime you play a team like that who has a lot of heart, in a championship game, you’re going to have to fight for it.”


Just over a minute out of the timeout, the Warriors gained possession of a loose ball in their defensive end and fired a few quick passes before Taylor Florin put Western on the board.


“A lot of [the timeout discussion] was we need to step up, we need to get something going,” said Florin. “Coming out of that and getting possession and scoring a quick one was a good start for getting some momentum behind us.”


To start the second quarter, the Wildcats quickly expanded their 3-1 advantage after controlling the draw. Halina Homiak fed fellow senior Madeline Dahl who found the net. However, Florin delivered an immediate response for the Warriors, winning the next draw and cashing in 12 seconds later.


“Usually those transition goals really get us going,” Williams said.


Western’s offense proved her correct as the second quarter progressed. Sophomore Annie Alhusen netted back-to-back goals over the next two-and-a-half minutes, prompting a Rockbridge timeout with the score even 4-4.


“I think we really had to come back in the second quarter with energy,” said Alhusen. “We started playing as hard as we could. Everyone was playing for each other, and the shots fell.”


The Rockbridge timeout failed to switch the tide. A minute later off a missed-shot restart, Alhusen collected her hat trick, giving the Warriors their first lead with 7:26 left in the half.


“In the beginning, we weren’t taking care of the ball as well as we usually do,” said Williams. “Once we slowed down and took a deep breath, things started going our way.”


Later in the quarter, McLean Stokes got in on the scoring before Alhusen added another goal as the clock ticked under 3 seconds. It was Western’s sixth-straight to send them into halftime with a 7-4 lead.


Drama returned in the third quarter as the squads traded runs. In the first 94 seconds, goals by Anna Nye and Lola Mulitalo pulled the Wildcats within 7-6. But junior Genevieve Hathaway answered with two goals off of restarts to make it 9-6 for Western at the 4:54 mark. For Rockbridge, the same pair delivered again in less than two minutes, cutting the margin to one. Florin helped the Warriors build back their margin via assists, first to senior Reeve Goldstein.


“Genevieve and Reeve are middies, so they have the ability to score though they’re called upon more to play defense,” said Williams. “When the going gets tough, they’re always good for a goal, so it was great to see them come through.”


Western then beat a dwindling clock again. With Rockbridge down a defender due to a foul with 18 seconds left in the third, Florin lobbed to Alhusen cutting in front of the net. Though she didn’t catch the pass, she managed to redirect the ball into goal, making it 11-8 heading into the final quarter.


“That one was lucky,” Florin said.


Senior Maggie Craytor tallied what proved to be the last goal 54 seconds into the fourth. Although Rockbridge had a few looks, including while Western was down a defender due to a foul at the 7:46 mark, goalie Maizey McCarthy came up with some clutch saves.


“Maizey’s only a 10th grader but she’s really poised and has a lot of composure,” said Williams. “It’s important when you’re a goalie to forget the last play and focus on the next, and I think she’s very successful because she does that.”


For Western (20-0), the 12-8 victory wrapped up a second-straight undefeated season capped by a state title. Not bad for Williams’ first two seasons at the helm.


“I’m really proud of the girls, they’ve worked really hard,” said Williams. “The main thing is they stay in the moment and work together as a team, and that’s why they’ve been so successful.”


Rockbridge (18-2), meanwhile, had Western end its state tournament run for the fourth-straight year. For the past two seasons, all four of the program’s losses have come at the hands of the Warriors.