The season is awfully young for a pair of vaunted rivals to meet this early, but the Albemarle and Western Albemarle girls field hockey teams weathered the heat and humidity and traded jabs in a game that saw some solid back-and-forth action. The difference really was that the Patriots were just a lot more opportunistic. Striking early behind the speed of Lexi Kohler, Albemarle’s attack got a second boost from a pair of gritty goals from Anna Murray that paved the way for a 3-0 win.
“Our forwards started out playing really scrappy and that’s what we’ve been harping on since our first game against Covenant,” said Albemarle coach Brittany McElheny. “We talk about starting the fire, that there’s no need to wait. Our forwards came out and did that for us, I think that’s what generated so much early for us. We had 11 players in front of the goal to start the half so I think the girls realized, ‘oh, we can do this, we just have to finish with a goal’ and then they did. I was really happy to see them put it together.”
The shots were pretty much even in this first duel between the Patriots and Warriors with the former getting the edge at 7-6, but the results were different. Albemarle got its first short corner ten minutes into the game and after plenty of battle at midfield, Kohler broke loose and finished off a pass from Olivia Chisholm to make it 1-0 with 11:18 left in the first.
Western applied some heavy pressure after that behind freshman Sophie Lananhan’s shooting. She wound up finishing with five of her team’s six shots, but the Patriots defense came up strong to keep up the shutout.
“I think this was the first game that we came together as a team,” Murray said. “We all worked hard, 100 percent and we had a lot of different people out there.”
The Patriots came out of the break aggressive and saw Murray barge her way through the Western defense to finish a tough goal up close and personal just over two minutes into the half to make it 2-0 and force a Warriors timeout.
Murray’s second goal wrapped up the scoring and it came just ten minutes later after her first. It was another hard move toward the goal and cleaning up the scrum in front that led to Murray and Albemarle going up 3-0 with 16:36 to play.
“This was really a climax game for us,” Murray said. “Now we’re intense and ready to go for the rest of the season. It’s exciting to see where we’re going to go from here.”
That was more than enough for the Albemarle defense to work with. Keeper Morgan Coleman finished with six saves with five of them coming in the first half. And while Western applied stead pressure in between Murray’s goals, Albemarle was able to keep the ball outside and avoid any shots on goal.
“I though our girls played extremely well for a first game and considering how many days we’ve been able to practice and play together,” said Western coach Mia Fields. “We did some nice things but Albemarle is a really tough team, well coached and so they made things hard on us but that should help us a lot going forward.”
Western’s Addie Patterson finished with five saves to lead the Warriors defense.
The Warriors (0-1) face Powhatan next while the Patriots (2-0) have Louisa with both games on Thursday.