There were collisions. There was spirited yelling and back-and-forth. There was even blood.
When the dust finally settled in the latest edition of the undisputed best rivalry in local girls soccer, Western Albemarle made some history. The Warriors won 2-0, handing Albemarle its first regular season loss since March 14, 2013 and Western became the first Jefferson District team to beat the Patriots since Albemarle’s move into the JD.
“(This is) the biggest win for us in the last four years, we haven’t been anywhere close to them,” said Western senior Abby Zimmerman. “It’s a huge momentum swing for our team.”
In the battle of two of the state’s defending champions — Western in Class 3 and Albemarle in Class 5 — Western gained the advantage with two early second half goals. The first was a tremendous left-footed finish from Caitlin Harvey and the second came on a Savannah Wilson penalty kick after Zimmerman drew a foul in the box. From there, the Warriors had to withstand an all-out assault by the Patriots who refused to go quietly, creating chance after chance on controlled advances, corner kicks and long runs
That put the pressure squarely on Western goalie Bailey Wood who along with a stout Western defense proved up to the task.
“The pressure definitely went up because 2-0 is a really hard score to have as a lead because they can score one goal and they’re right back in the game,” Wood said. “I was just making sure everybody was ready to go because they were playing very well, they had a lot of chances so I was just making sure we were staying in it.”
Albemarle couldn’t break through despite that array of chances and shots including several close calls on shots by striker Fizzy Gonzalez who Western tried to hem in but who out ran defenders to a couple of through balls. Each time, the Warriors’ defense was able to flick the ball away or Wood was able to make a save or force the ball out.
“Tons of credit to those girls for coming out here and kicking our butts, their coaching staff put together a great game plan,” said Albemarle coach Amy Sherrill. “This just makes things that much better the next time around and that game (the next meeting) is right before regionals so we’re seeing a really good team right before it counts.”
The two teams battled to a draw in an exciting first half that included Albemarle’s Katie Schnell picking up a bloody nose, an indicator of the type of fire both teams were playing with. The Warriors matching the Patriots’ intensity, which has proven no easy task in the past. Last year the two teams battled in a monsoon in their second meeting, a 5-2 Albemarle win, and the Patriots shut out Western in the meeting before that, a 4-0 victory. Those losses last year against Albemarle, some of the only blights on the Warriors’ state title run, helped make proving themselves against the Patriots a critical midseason goal for the Warriors.
“This was kind of our first test, our first midseason goal we were working toward,” said Western assistant Taylor Avery. “There was always this idea that we know they’re going to be physical, it was about how can we step up, meet that and then exceed it.”
Harvey’s goal came due to a fierce run where the ball suddenly squirted out of the middle with just under 32 minutes to play and Harvey quickly settled it and blasted it off the crossbar and in with a left-footed shot.
“It was fantastic, she has worked so hard this season and it was so exciting to see her get through on that,” Avery said. “It was one of those hustle plays where she just kept fighting and fighting.”
Zimmerman drawing the foul less than three minutes later was huge, helping put the Patriots in a 2-0 hole. Then Western kept figuring out ways to put the pressure on while Albemarle turned up its intensity. The Warriors nearly made it 3-0 with 16 minutes left, but Albemarle keeper Katie Grebe made a save to keep the Patriots alive.
“We noticed that they went to three in the back,” Zimmerman said. “We had to establish that we were going to have an extra out wide and defense became the biggest key for us, there was no slacking.”
The two squads will play again on May 19 at Albemarle but next up the Warriors face Jefferson Forest Thursday at home while Albemarle travels to Louisa County the same night.