Albemarle girls soccer was intent on not letting Western Albemarle possess, connect or create runs. The Patriots’ defensive approach was pretty simple.
Suffocate the Warriors.
“Our goal was to be on them as soon as they got the ball and not let them have any time or space — to shut them down,” said Albemarle senior Megan Schantz.
Schantz and company delivered, stifling Western’s offense and limiting the Warriors’ scoring chances. In the process they picked up a hard-fought 2-0 win.
The Patriots were tactically sound throughout and seemed, especially early on, to just have a little more energy when running down the ball, which helped create a number of chances and corner opportunities. Eventually on one of those corners late in the first half, the ball bounded out high and sophomore defender Emily Ward hit a high, arching ball into the box. Western’s keeper stepped out and the ball slipped past, where the Patriots’ ultra quick striker Madeline St. Amand was waiting. St. Amand finished, giving the Patriots a 1-0 lead before the half.
Offensively, St. Amand was able to create some havoc up top, with the Patriots moving her around and allowing her to attack from the right side, the left and the middle.
“For Madeline to follow up on that goal, she’s doing her part and her job and executed perfectly,” said Albemarle coach Amy Sherrill. “We try to show different things with our attack and that’s the thing about Madeline is she is really versatile and we put her in different spots up top just to give her different looks at different defenders. We know they’re talented all across the back especially with Julia (Berg) and we wanted to move her away from her.”
Western took its energy level up a notch to start the second half and that eventually led to a chance from Molly Gobble with about 27 minutes left. Gobble’s shot clanged off the top left corner of the goal frame though and ricocheted out. It turned out to be Western’s best chance as the Albemarle defense asserted itself again down the stretch to prevent an equalizer.
“Albemarle, kudos to coach Sherrill, she had her team ready right from the start and they really put us on our heels,” said Western coach Jake Desch. “They were the more aggressive team and the better team in the first half. We liked how our team responded, in the second half we battled a little bit.”
Then with under 10 minutes to play, Schantz stepped up to take a free kick from right in front of Albemarle’s bench and hit a blast that somehow found Avery Dougald who finished it among a swarm of Patriots who crashed the goal.
“I was taking my time and I wanted to get in my zone so I just found an open gap in between the goalkeeper and the line and put it in the middle,” Schantz said.
That gave the Patriots a comfortable 2-0 lead and took the wind out of a potential Western comeback, though Albemarle’s defense had given few indications it was willing to surrender a goal anyway. Keeper Jaya Daniel finished with a shut out, the Patriots’ seventh of the season. Schantz was a big part of that defensive effort with a lot of heavy lifting from Ward, Reese Quillian and Maggie McMullan in the midfield.
“Megan is our heart and soul — a four year starter and captain,” Sherrill said. “She wants to make sure that the traditions and legacy of Albemarle soccer continue.”
With the win, Albemarle takes sole possession of first place in the Jefferson District. They’ll face Louisa County Thursday while Western looks to bounce back the same night on the road against Powhatan.