Flip the Script: Albemarle boys lacrosse nips Western in round two

One-goal margins in the fourth quarter are pretty much standard when Albemarle and Western square off in boys lacrosse.


“Every single game that I’ve played here against Western has always been between one or two goals — the past two have gone to overtime — so we knew coming down to the end it was going to be close,” said Albemarle junior Andrew Scanlon. “It was just a matter of our leaders stepping up. Our defense had a couple of great stops at the end on the man-up.”


A month after the cross-county rivals’ first clash on a chilly night in Crozet required extra time for the Warriors to grind out a 6-5 victory, AHS flipped the script on Tuesday and picked up a 12-9 victory.


As the sun set on an 80 degree evening, the Patriots matched their goal total from last time around with 1:27 to go in the first quarter en route to a 7-2 lead less than a minute into the second. Western battled back as their zone defense again proved effective when it had time to set up in the box, but each time the Warriors pulled within one goal down the stretch, Albemarle’s attack answered. More often than not, that answer was Scanlon, who poured in seven goals to lead the Patriots to the win.


“When they had the ball against our settled defense, I think we did a good job,” said Western coach Alex Whitten. “We had a hard time clearing the ball tonight. We didn’t handle the ball or ourselves very well in transition. When you give a good team like that opportunities, repeatedly, they’re going to find ways to beat you, and unfortunately that was us tonight.”


Trailing 9-8 entering the fourth, Western had two prime opportunities in the first third of the period to pull even as Albemarle committed a pair of one-minute penalties. However, the Patriots’ defense killed both, with the second setting up a transition opportunity and their first goal in more than 14 minutes of game time.


“Matt Willis had a stop and a good clear,” Scanlon said of the sequence that unfolded as the penalty expired at the 7:19 mark. “We had a fast break and Alec just threw the ball to me. I took the hit but it still went in and that was huge for us to go up two goals.”


Western’s attack has suffered from injuries in recent weeks, and it was never more evident than when the offense was presented those late-game opportunities.


“We have a couple guys on offense who didn’t play on our extra-man unit, so we were a little green there,” Whitten said. “We didn’t handle the ball as well as we could have or run the extra-man as efficiently as possible.”


Western sophomore Austin Payne completed a second half hat trick with 4:36 remaining to cut the margin back to one at 10-9; however, Albemarle had two more answers. Senior Alec Kelly fired in a high strike from the left side with 3:18 to play, and after the Patriots’ 17th face-off win of the night, Kelly assisted on Scanlon’s seventh goal to restore a three-goal margin as the clock ticked under three minutes.


The game began with both sides cashing in on extra-man opportunities. Western senior Jack Lesemann connected first from right side for his only goal of the night, while Kelly put Albemarle on the board 97 seconds later. That kicked off a run of six straight goals for the Patriots, with Scanlon netting four, including a first quarter hat trick.


“Our strategy was to come out and try to take advantage of unsettled situations, before we got into our six-on-six,” said Albemarle coach Dave King. “I credit the kids; they played hard and found some spots.”


Western managed to slow the pace over the last nine minutes of the second, as Albemarle struggled to find creases in the zone, while Western gradually chipped away at the 7-2 deficit with three goals to head into the break trailing only 7-5. However, Western drew a slashing flag in the closing seconds, which would be enforced in the first minute of the third quarter. Junior goalkeeper Will Stalfort helped kill the penalty in unorthodox fashion by running from his crease all the way into the offense box as the minute expired; however, the Warriors were whistled for offsides, and the defense was unsettled as Albemarle took possession while Stalfort raced some sixty yards back to his net. Forrest Warner cashed in for the Patriots, and Scanlon added another 10 seconds later via an assist from Kelly to open a 9-5 lead.


“Andrew felt it tonight,” King said. “He’s been working hard on his shot, and he knew he had to take the shots that he was given.”


Western settled things down again over the rest of the third quarter. Junior Jack Reichert drove and spun before firing home a shot from the left side for his second goal of the game, and Payne connected on his first two goals, the second along the ground with the ball sneaking across the line to cut Albemarle’s lead to 9-8 with 3:37 left in the frame.


Albemarle hosts St. Christopher’s on Friday night, while Western is off until a road trip to Patrick Henry-Roanoke on Monday.