Albemarle girls soccer’s Makinna Winterton was a key contributing sophomore when the Patriots won their last state championship back in 2017. This year she had to wait for the final three minutes of play in the Class 5A championship game against Deep Run to take the field with her teammates. A knee injury sidelined the senior up until that point, but for those few minutes, Winterton sported a beaming grin moving up and down the field.
“This meant the world to me,” Winterton said. “It was a different experience being with the girls on the bench. But to actually get out there be able to play for a state championship with my teammates was just the most amazing feeling.”
Thanks to a flurry of offense midway through the second half, the substitution wasn’t just a ceremonial one, it was celebratory. For the second time in three years, the Patriots picked up a Class 5A championship, this time beating the Wildcats 4-1 at Hermitage High on Saturday morning.
“The biggest thing for us was believing,” said Albemarle coach Amy Sherrill. “We broke this game down into two halves. Obviously the first half didn’t go our way and we were just battling it out, figuring out who Deep Run was. So the goal at halftime was just to believe that once we got one, their sails would be deflated and then we could open the flood gates. That’s kind of what happened.”
While the scoring chances were even in the first half at two a piece for both squads, with just over a minute to play until the break, Deep Run put the Patriots in an unenviable hole. On a bang-bang play in front of the net from Sydney Schriner to senior captain Natalie Nettlemeyer the Wildcats went up 1-0.
“We were so happy to get here we weren’t worried about the results,” Sherrill said. “We knew all things were going to work out for good. Deep Run’s such a good team and they came out playing, trusting themselves. They had a hard game in PK’s too coming into this one.”
The Albemarle defense had to fight off a pair of attacks from Deep Run in the first 15 minutes of the second half. With 38 minutes to go, Jaya Daniel came up with a big save and with 25 to play the Wildcats hit the far left post. But with the exception of a routine Daniel save with three minutes to play, the Patriots were on the attack or battling for 50-50 balls at mid field the rest of the way. Offensively, Albemarle pressed hard with Madeline St. Amand and Kora Jillions on the left and right wings of the field. On a messy play in front of the net with 18 minutes to play, Jillions managed to get just enough of a ball mid-air and slip it into the net for the equalizer.
“(St. Amand) crossed it and I was just lucky enough to get it in,” Jilli0ns said. “It was really exciting and just raised everyone’s energy.”
And from there, the levee simply broke open for the Patriots offense. The Patriots scored four times in 18 minutes.
“It was after that first goal that I knew we had it,” Winterton said. “Everyone was so pumped. You could just feel it that we were just going to keep knocking.”
Indeed they did and with a heavy hand too. Eight minutes later the Albemarle defense launched a clear that Maggie McMullan was able to run down to the far left corner of the field and keep in bounds. She found a wide open Savannah Alexander in front of the net and the junior pounded home her shot to make it 2-1.
“It was basically a lot of hustle from Maggie, it was a long ball that at first I thought was going out of bounds,” Alexander said. “But she hustled down there, crossed it over the defenders head and I touched it down and just ripped it. It was the best feeling.”
Feeling the pressure, the Wildcats went from playing conservative defense to moving things up to midfield. That exposed a problem. Three minutes after Alexander’s goal, St. Amand — who’s speed was an issue all game for the Wildcats — capitalized on a breakaway to make it 3-1.
“It clicked for her and once she finds one positive thing she’s just going to create havoc for the rest of the defense,” Sherrill said.
Then with just over two minutes to play, St. Amand struck again when she got a wide open look on the right side of the net. If her first goal wasn’t the final nail in the coffin, the second set up by McMullan was and Albemarle was able to coast the last two minutes and prepare to celebrate.
“I’m just so thankful Maggie set me up for an opportunity like that because it was perfect,” St. Amand said.
The Patriots graduate the majority of their defense, with unsung heroes Katherine Yow, Megan Schantz and Reese Quillian all going out as winners in their final game as Patriots. Offensively Albemarle will have to find a replacement for McMullan who had a pair of assists in her final game. The Class of 2019 played in four consecutive state final fours, the first ever Patriot class to do so.
“For them to go out and get the job done, we couldn’t ask for better belief,” Sherrill said.
Albemarle finished the year 20-1-1. With St. Amand (2022), Jillians (2021), Alexander (2020), Liz Yow (2021) and Daniel (2021) all slated to return in 2020 though, the Patriots have a championship caliber core to start out with when it comes time to begin defending its Class 5A title next March.
— scrimmageplay (@scrimmageplay) June 8, 2019