Western Albemarle boys lacrosse knew the Warriors’ clash with Albemarle Wednesday night wasn’t just a rivalry game, it was a litmus test. A chance to see how far the Warriors had come in a month and a chance to pick up a needed boost going into the postseason.
“This is one we really wanted to make sure we got the right outcome since last time we didn’t quite get it figured out,” said Western coach Mario Washington. “I think this is a good signature win heading to the playoffs.”
The Warriors held off the Patriots 9-8 in the squads’ rematch of a 14-6 blowout by Albemarle back in May, with Western getting a spark from a much improved defensive effort and four goals from Quinn Reilly.
“The guys went out there and got it done, my hat’s off to Jack Zayas who had a fantastic game in the cage,” Washington said. “We certainly fine-tuned a few things to make sure we didn’t have the same outcome as last time.”
The Warriors got a lot of the little things right in this one, with sophomore Tyler Spano leading a 15-6 advantage on faceoffs while the Warriors also held a 37-26 advantage on ground balls. That was critical, especially down the stretch as Albemarle kept plugging away in the second half and cut the Western lead to one twice in the closing minutes with Max Wooten hitting a big one to close it to 8-7 and Brock Stroud cutting it to 9-8 with 1:33 to play.
The Western defense then had to overcome a tripping penalty and got help from an errant pass that led to a ground ball that Spencer Powell eventually corralled. The Patriots got one more chance after a Western turnover, but missed a shot with 10 seconds left and then the Warriors’ Grant Goodall forced a turnover behind the cage to prevent an AHS miracle in the closing seconds, setting off a Western celebration.
“This is why we come out, this is why we play sports, this is why we play the game of lacrosse,” Spano said. “There’s nothing like a close game like that, especially when we finish at the end like that.”
Beyond Reilly’s four goals, Western got two goals and two assists from Stuart Widener and goal each from Spano, Austin Payne and Cole Baglio with Gray Kallen, Spano and Payne chipping in assists. Zayas had three saves in goal.
Kevin Myers, Brock Stroud and Owen Tighe each scored two goals for Albemarle with Myers also notching one assist. Jake King had a goal and an assist. Aidan Taffe stopped nine shots in the cage.
Both squads will now turn their attention to next week’s region tournaments.