By any measure, the Albemarle girls lacrosse team exceeded expectations this season.
Faced with a coaching change in the middle of the season and myriad injuries in the postseason, the Patriots fought through the adversity and found themselves hosting a state semifinal Wednesday evening.
But that was where things came to an end at the hands of a loaded Freedom-South Riding team in an 18-9 loss as the Patriots could not recover from a turnover-plagued first half.
The Eagles got six goals from Emily Maier and five from Morgan Koeneke, taking control with a 6-1 burst in the latter stages of the first half and didn’t look back, setting up a title clash with Atlee on Saturday in Richmond.
“Their entire team is very patient,” Albemarle coach Brittany McElheny said. “That’s not something we’ve seen. We usually have opponents who come down in transition hard. Our defense got into a lull because their attack was so patient.”
Maier completed the hat trick with 11 minutes left before halftime to put Freedom ahead 6-2. This followed her second goal and one by Koeneke which started the run, which began at the 14-minute mark. The Eagles had also scored the game’s first two goals and never trailed in the contest.
A goal by Erin Keller breathed new life into Albemarle, but Freedom got three more goals in the next two minutes to stretch the lead to 9-3 and eventually took an 11-4 lead into the break.
“Although we got in a big hole early, we were able to still listen at timeouts and at halftime and make corrections,” McElheny said. “The girls were still going, they were still believing, we were creating turnovers, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
The Patriots cut it to six on two occasions in the second half, the second time on consecutive goals by Rheed Vineyard and Morgan Rose with 10:52 to play. That made it 14-8 and got the home crowd out of their seats, but Freedom used a timeout to quell the momentum and promptly got another goal from Maier right out of the huddle and held Albemarle to just one goal the rest of the way.
“I forget exactly what I said, but we talked about what we had to do to stop the momentum,” Freedom coach Richard DeSomma said. “We needed to bring it back to what we were doing when the game started. We had a lot of takeaways in transition and we weren’t forcing it, but then Albemarle made some adjustments so we had to also.
Caroline Sheppard, who missed last week’s regional final against Mountain View, returned to the cage for the Patriots and registered eight saves. Freedom’s Arayah McNeal had nine.
Vineyard, a freshman, led the way along with Kelsey Myers for the Patriots as the pair posted hat tricks of their own.
“If there’s ever a time to step up as a freshman and you can step into a varsity game and not question yourself and make a big impact, it’s states,” McElheny said. “That leaves us hopeful for the future.”