Game of the Week
Western Albemarle at Albemarle boys lacrosse, 7 p.m. Friday
The basics: This is always one of the highlights of spring as two of the area’s top public school lacrosse programs lock horns in a huge rivalry clash. The Patriots and Warriors have been involved in some classic battles the last few years, and each game seems to have a little bit of a playoff feel, even if it’s being played in March. With the key figures each team has back this year, the latest edition shouldn’t disappoint. Western returns goalie Jackson Sours, top scoring threats Luke Reilly, John Carr Haden, A.J. Donnovan and Carter Elliot as well as Oliver Herndon and Matthew Mullin on defense. Albemarle brings back an array of offensive weapons including Ian Davis and Justin Peck and all-state defenders like takeaway artist Ryan Hooper and Malcolm Meistrell give the Patriots a strong core to build around. With all that talent, both squads are trying to mesh together and start building toward what should be a promising season, but the stakes will certainly be high Friday night in a battle for bragging rights and early season momentum.
Key matchup: Albemarle’s offensive weapons tries to contend with Western’s Oliver Herndon. Herndon is an absolute force on ground balls and in transition he’s pretty much unmatched locally where he can go coast-to-coast and score as he did against Salem Friday. He can also just black out the opposition’s best player or force turnovers all night, so moving the ball and getting everyone like Justin Peck, Ethan Blundin and Hunter Johnson involved is critical for the Patriots. Trying to find an answer for Herndon or maybe at best neutralize him is a tall task for Albemarle Friday night.
Who to watch: Ian Davis, Albemarle. Davis has the ability to make the Patriots go offensively, as he showed in Albemarle’s win over Douglas Freeman when he poured in four goals and dished out two assists. He had a goal and an assist against C.M. Wright in a narrow loss for the Patriots that should serve as one of those games that helps you
The line: Albemarle by one. Both these squads are going to be in the mix to play for championships in the postseason, but the Patriots seem to be a little more dialed in right now to start the year.
Four More to Watch
Albemarle at Western girls lacrosse, Friday 7 p.m.
Much like the boys’ tilt we dove into above, this is a solid matchup between a couple of state tournament qualifiers from last season. The Albemarle girls have some serious scoring punch with Morgan Rose, Gwen Pattison, Lindsey Earles and an array of other options. The Patriots just too St. Catherine’s to the brink too. Western counters with Kara Repich who scored four goals against Salem in a win and the sophomore is just the tip of the iceberg with Kate Snyder, Sammie Magargee, Julia Haws, Hannah Curry and other key starters back from the 2015 state final squad.
Monticello versus Western girls and boys tennis, Tuesday 5 p.m.
The Mustangs and Warriors lock up in a pair of key Jefferson District matchups early in the tennis slate. This should be an excellent early test for the Western girls in particular, who bring back a lot of talent from last year’s state runner-up squad including Maddy Ix who just reached her 100th career match victory.
Blue Ridge at Woodberry boys lacrosse, Tuesday 4 p.m.
This is a classic measuring stick game as both boarding school teams continue to size up who they are early in the year, with both trying to compete in the loaded VISAA lacrosse ranks. The Tigers bring back several key contributors in coach Spotty Robbins’ first season, including highly-regarded quarterback Lindell Stone as a midfielder as well as defenders Taylor Brower and Elliot Connell. The Barons looked solid against Flint Hill with Shane Ford leading a fourth quarter comeback, but have dropped a couple of games since. Look for a renewed effort against the Tigers.
William Monroe at Orange County baseball, Friday 7 p.m.
Yes, Orange County fell in six innings at the hands of Cody Spencer’s perfecto last week. However, the Hornets used up their power arms earlier in the week against Madison County and Spotsylvania and won both of those games. Monroe on the other hand, has barely pitched its ace from last year, Jacob Tomlin and it’s breakout arm in Spencer Eldridge. Which of those three starts for Monroe will be of interest, obviously in addition to the result. And how Orange responds in a second meeting will be worth noting too. Round two is likely to have a little more balance to it with it being at Porterfield Park and the Hornets a little more prepared from this meeting. On top of it, the Hornets are getting a great opponent to prepare them for the Jefferson District. The Dragons, by preparing with a Group 5A opponent, are more than getting ready for their slate with the Bull Run District. Oddly enough, it’s a win-win situation for both teams, especially if this meeting is a tight contest.
Team on the rise
William Monroe softball
The Dragons had their share of adversity to beat before the season began, but it only took one big game to get the Monroe faithful’s attention. Filling McKenzie Flora’s shoes in the circle was one of the big question marks after she graduated last spring. But when the Dragons lost their starting shortstop, Makayla Morris in the winter to a knee injury during basketball season, this team had to dig deeper with its youth. Orange County is one of the elite softball programs in the area. For Monroe to trot out a freshman, Jessica Ford, and watch her pitch a complete game victory in a 7-1 contest is a huge boost for a program that made a lot of strides last year. The Dragons were one win away from the state tournament in 2015. Yes they lost a good deal of talent, but the youth movement in Stanardsville looks like it has the program continuing in the right direction, putting them up there with the Orange Countys and Madison Countys of the area. The Dragons get round two with the Hornets on Friday but will have to wait until April 22 until they see the Mountaineers.