With just a handful of anomalies over the last three decades, when Charlottesville and Western Albemarle boys soccer lock up fireworks are a given.
But even in a storied rivalry, Monday night’s latest installment provided one of the best clashes in the history of the matchup. In the end, Charlottesville scrapped and clawed its way to a 3-1 victory in overtime against a resilient Western Albemarle squad that played a man down almost the entire match after an early red card. In fact, Charlottesville had to find a different gear in overtime in order to overcome the Warriors’ intensity.
“When we got in the huddle before overtime, our coaches told us that (Western outworking them as they had in the second half) couldn’t happen if we were going to win,” said Charlottesville’s Lucas Simpson.
Simpson was a difference-maker throughout the match, scoring to put Charlottesville up 1-0 with three minutes to go in the first half on a counter attack that swung the entire momentum of the game. In the 10 minutes before Simpson’s strike, Western had barely missed on three chances, including one less than a minute before Simpson scored.
The Warriors were forced to switch up their approach in the wake of the red card called on the Western keeper for a foul. The Warriors attacked more directly throughout the game than they usually do after adjusting to a 3-3-3 formation.
“We played more direct and we’re not a direct team,” said Western coach Milo Oakland. “So we got to learn how to do some of that.”
Western broke through and got the equalizer from Connor Spano with five minutes to play, evening it up and forcing overtime.
In overtime, Charlottesville went on the attack again and Miles Kershner drew a foul for a dangerous kick. Simpson drifted to the right and Graham Lenert spotted him and hurried the kick in the aftermath.
“They’re a man down so somebody is always open,” Simpson said. “Graham saw it before I did, I only saw the ball coming to me when I turned my head and I just shot for the corner.”
Western ratcheted up the aggressiveness again and Charlottesville didn’t bunker in during the second overtime, so that opened the door for Xavier Trager to notch the insurance goal, racing downfield with Moses Kashindi sprinting alongside him and ready to finish it if Trager’s full speed tap didn’t find the net.
“I wish he scored more, he’s a quiet force and he doesn’t always call for it, but he gets it and the ball sticks to his foot,” Simpson said. “He’s always been like that and I’m so happy he got the goal.”
With Western Albemarle now up in Class 4, fans won’t get to see a rematch of this one like the playoff thriller in the Region 3C semifinals last June. But it’s clear the respect that exists between the two rivals.
“In the second half, they outworked us,” Simpson said. “What they have instilled within them from their coach is something to respect because they outworked us with 10 men on the field.”
Oakland pointed to the environment, intensity and respect both teams showed.
“All the coaches were incredibly proud of how they played,” Oakland said. “It was so exciting, it was just fun to be a part of, fun to watch. These are the games that are why I like doing this.”
The Warriors also learned a lot about themselves.
“We came into this game trying to assess how far we’ve progressed from the beginning of the season until now and the moment we got that that card I remember thinking, shoot we’re not going to get that chance,” Oakland said. “But it turned out I was totally wrong and we learned more I think in that game than we could’ve learned in any other environment.”