When Western Albemarle is moving the ball offensively they’re tough to beat. It really is that simple.
“When we handle the ball and we move well we’re able to function at a high level of efficiency and at this point in time that’s really what we want,” said Western coach Alex Whitten.
With assists on 14 of their 18 goals Thursday night including three goals and three assists from sophomore Sam Stalfort, Western was clearly moving the ball and it showed in an 18-3 win over Monticello in the Class 4, Region A championships.
“Once we get on a roll we can just keep on trucking,” Stalfort said. “I think our coaches did a really good job preparing us for the game.”
The win gives the Warriors a spot in the state tournament. They’ll face either No. 4-seeded Hanover or No. 1 Midlothian, who square off Friday in the other semifinal, in the region title game.
Stalfort did the bulk of his damage with three straight goals to push the Western advantage to 12-0, but Western’s offense got going early with two Max Miller goals sandwiched around a John Carr Haden tally that opened up a 3-0 lead. Haden finished the day with a hat trick and two assists. Jack Weyher had two goals and three assists. Jack Reichert scored twice and had a pair of assists for the Warriors. Wilson Kelly, who had a goal and two assists, picked up six ground balls to lead the Warriors in that category, but he had company with Stalfort snagging four while Haden and Reichert picked up three each. Alex Williamson chipped in four ground balls.
A late goal from senior Robert Sims set off one of the night’s loudest cheers. Sims, an All-Jefferson District football player, joined the lacrosse team this year for the first time and has gotten into the mix as the season has progressed, following a trend of Western athletes contributing as seniors to the program for the first time.
“I think he’s the third guy since I’ve been here that has shown up as a senior and had an impact toward the end of the season,” Whitten said. “That’s what we said to him, ‘hey you don’t know the game but toward the end of the year, end of April, end of May, you’re going to be able to help us as an athlete.’ He scored last game too and it has been fun to see that.”
Western will lean on its huge senior class as the competition level picks up going forward. It’s a group that advanced to the state final in their sophomore year and made another deep run last season. With juggernauts like Riverside and Loudoun Valley lurking in the Class 4 bracket, the Warriors will need every ounce of that experience to keep moving forward.
“Our senior class is a big class, they’ve been here,” Whitten said. “I always use the analogy that the team is a race horse and the captains and the seniors are the jockey. The coaches are really just the trainers. The horse does the running and the seniors lead that horse and take the initiative. From here we’ve got a full slate but we’re going to rely on those seniors completely.”
Monticello struggled to counter a clearly locked-in Western squad, with Trevor Bratton scratching out a pair of goals to lead the Mustangs.
Western’s opponent and game time in the Region 4A final is to be determined.