Back in the Saddle: Albemarle girls soccer beats Massaponax to earn third-straight state tourney berth

Photo by Ashley Thornton

Albemarle girls soccer is heading to a familiar place.


The Patriots got two goals from star striker Fizzy Gonzalez and overcame an early deficit to hold off visiting Massaponax 2-1 to book its third-straight trip to the state tournament.


The Patriots will travel to Mountain View on Friday in the regional final to determine seeding.


Battling a sore hamstring, Gonzalez cleaned up a mess in front of the net in the 61st minute, calmly grounding the ball into the left corner of the net to break a 1-1 tie and send her bench and the home crowd into a frenzy.


“Even going down early, we knew what we had to do,” Gonzalez said. “Getting that one gave it that same thought process — zero-zero. We just had to go all in and work.”


Earlier in the half in the 49th minute, Gonzalez had a golden opportunity to break the tie but her shot went clanging off the crossbar. The next time she got a chance, she didn’t miss.


Uncharacteristically, the Patriots trailed before most of the crowd had settled in after giving up a second-minute goal. But the Albemarle defense clamped down after that. The Panthers registered just one more shot thereafter. Meanwhile, Albemarle’s attack got going.


“One of the best things about us is that we don’t get frazzled, we don’t lose our ability to get after it,” Albemarle coach Amy Sherrill said. “Giving one up early wasn’t in the game plan, but we stayed composed.”


The Patriots registered seven shots in the first half and 12 for the game, but didn’t find the scoreboard until the 26th minute, when freshman Cora Joseph found Gonzalez in the box and the striker did the rest, with the equalizer injecting life into her teammates. The Patriots relentless attack continued after that, mostly down the right flank of the field.


“That’s something we know we’re really good at,” Sherrill said. “We want to tap into our speed, our relentless nature. We’re taught to stop. Massaponax’s defense did a great job holding us at bay, but the dam’s going to break eventually.”


Albemarle, while not converting off of set pieces, used the corner kick as a tool in wearing down the Massaponax defense. Albemarle took nine corners in all. Sherrill also used the second half to get backup goalie Jaya Daniel in the mix.


“We trust Jaya, we know what she’s capable of,” Sherrill said. “Katie (Grebe) played her butt off too.”