Western Albemarle’s girls soccer team didn’t have to sweat it out.
They didn’t have to take it down to the wire.
And they got to finish it the way they wanted for a group of seniors that’s been a cornerstone of the program since they arrived in ninth grade, beating Brentsville 3-1 to capture a third-straight Class 3 state title for the program.
“It’s been us four all four years so it’s really cool to end up like this now,” said Western’s Katrine Berg.
After playing together since they were 10 years old, the Warriors’ senior quartet of Berg, her twin sister Julia Berg, Kate de Jong and Ellie Plantz ended up with three straight state titles and a complete effort in the state playoffs with three straight victories capped by the win over Brentsville.
“It’s so special, we’ve been playing together since I was 10 and just hundreds of games, this is the best way to end my career,” Plantz said, referencing club and recreation soccer for the seniors in addition to their efforts for the Warriors. “We were coming in with so much support from all our coaches and our parents and our teammates and it feels great to accomplish this all together.”
The Warriors got an emotional boost from Julia Berg’s return to the lineup. Berg stunned one assistant coach when he looked up and saw her in the warmup line just seconds after mentioning she wasn’t going to be able to play. Berg missed the state semifinal with a stomach bug, but jumped back into the mix and quickly put the Warriors up 1-0 with a chip over the Brentsville keeper’s head off a well-placed cross off a corner kick reset by midfielder Erin Meier.
“Our motto this year has been all-in and I felt like if I could do my part I wanted to try and do that,” Berg said. “I definitely didn’t feel my best today but one of my coaches talked about when Michael Jordan played with the flu and that was just a little bit of inspiration for me. I just wanted to do this for my team and everyone who’s been constantly supporting us.”
It was clear that the person who benefited most from Berg’s return was her sister Katrine. Katrine Berg tacked on a second goal on a header for the Warriors to make it 2-0 with 8:30 left in the first. That gave Western an added layer of comfort on a wet turf where any ball could’ve skipped in and been the equalizer.
“It was really fun, especially for our last game,” Katrine Berg said. “Yesterday, I think the people who stepped in for her did a really great job and we got the job done, but it’s most fun to play with her. We kind of have a system where she knows what I like to run, she knows what kind of ball I like.”
Meier, who has been an impressive midfielder for years already for the Warriors, took her game to another level over the weekend, creating a rash of opportunities for the Warriors with hustle plays down the sideline or tremendous crosses like the one that Julia Berg finished. She took control of matches when she needed to, sensing a moment where the Warriors and coach Jake Desch needed even more than usual from her.
“I knew we wanted to make it special for our seniors because we love them so much,” Meier said. “I knew I needed to step up, especially yesterday with Julia Berg out. Someone needed to fill her shoes which is hard to do.”
Bailey Wood met the challenge too, with a pair of shutouts in goal and essentially another against Brentsville before a late tally with Western’s lead defenders playing forward that put the Tigers on the board.
In the second half, it was de Jong’s turn to get in on the senior scoring action, and she finished off a set piece for the Warriors to push the lead to 3-0. An impact defender who usually spends her time shutting off the right side, de Jong had an assist in the semifinal and then a special goal in the title match.
“That was extremely exciting, we had done well on set plays in the past and we’d struggled recently, so getting it on that set was amazing,” de Jong said.
The Warriors moved Plantz, another rock solid defender, up to forward late, but couldn’t find her enough touches to make it a perfect 4-for-4 on senior scorers. By that time though, the most important goal was secure. A third straight state title, and a fitting end for a group of seniors that has been together since they were learning to put on their own cleats.
All four of them, for all four years.