There was a lightness, a noticeable lack of tension as the Albemarle girls soccer team took the field on Monday against Potomac Falls in the Class 3A quarterfinals. With a technical difficulty taking place during introductions, the Patriots put it on themselves to sing the National Anthem, and they put together a noteworthy performance complete with percussion elements.
“I did tell them afterwards that if soccer didn’t work out for them, singing would be a good backup,” said Albemarle coach Amy Sherrill. “They lived for that moment. They wanted everything to go wrong so they could sing the National Anthem. I don’t know anything about pitch or key, but it sounded pretty good to me.”
Behind two dominant halves where the Patriots kept the ball in Panthers territory most the way, Albemarle rolled in a 2-0 victory that sounds closer than it felt on the field. As a result, the Patriots are headed to their third straight Class 5 semifinal.
“This senior class has been the behind the scenes crew, the ones that are willing to go and do the hard work, the dirty work while nobody’s watching,” Sherrill said. “Now under the bright lights, all their hard work is shining. We’re happy we get at least one more game with them and we want to send them off to college hopefully with another state title.”
Whether the pregame events made the Patriots loose or they were coming in that way regardless, what mattered was that Albemarle wasted little time getting to work. The Patriots saw Megan Schantz hit the crossbar on a free kick from thirty yards out in the first four minutes of play.
Albemarle applied steady pressure for the first 15 minutes with Potomac’s defense able to keep things mostly to the edge of the field. But after Fizzy Gonzalez helped the Patriots earn a corner with just under 23 minutes to play, a lengthy possession followed. A minute later Gonzalez was able to connect on a shot off an Avery Dougald pass to put Albemarle up 1-0.
“That’s what the wanted to do and then settle down and get into the game,” Gonzalez said.
With the game a little more open afterwards, Gonzalez gave her team a huge boost with 4:37 to play when she finished a contested breakaway off a feed from Maggie McMullan to make it 2-0.
“That gave us confidence, first half going into the second,” Gonzalez said. “Staying composed and true, that was our game.”
Potomac earned a corner just before the half but the Patriots defense snuffed it out and went into the break with that threat being the lone real scoring threat of the first forty minutes.
With Makinna Winterton, Katherine Brady and Katie Schnell simply out playing Potomac on a physical level, the second was just like the first.
“It definitely brings some confidence when you know you’re stronger and can’t get pushed over by them easily,” Schnell said. “It makes it easier to play when you know you can hold them off and connect with other people. It allows an easier game essentially.”
While the results weren’t the same on the scoreboard, Albemarle’s offense just peppered Panthers goalkeeper Jessica Touve with quality shots. The Bridgewater bound goalkeeper somehow came up with stop after stop. Another beautiful free kick from Schantz, a nice one-toucher from Winterton, headers on a pair of corners. The Potomac keeper got more than her fair share of work and was the only reason the wheels didn’t come flying off the in the second.
“Even though we didn’t score in the second half, we felt pretty good, had a lot of chances,” Sherrill said.
The shutout was the third straight for the Patriots in the state tournament dating back to last year. It’s the team’s 17th this season. Albemarle has allowed three goals all season. This was freshman goalkeeper Jaya Daniels fourth straight playoff shutout.
“We knew their counter attack was really good but that our defense would do a great job of holding them at bay,” Sherrill said. “And then our goalkeeper (Daniel) she showed up when she needed to.”
Now the Patriots will head to face an opponent to be determined on Friday in Richmond. This is Albemarle’s third trip to the state final in as many years.
“It’s definitely really rewarding,” Schnell said. “We knew we wanted to be here. This is what we’ve been working for all season. We’ve put in all the work and we definitely deserve to get another state ring.”