Western Albemarle’s boys lacrosse team wants to play at an uptempo, borderline frantic pace.
Charlottesville’s recent offensive improvements and efficiency means they can keep pace.
That’s why a wild, track meet of a game exploded Monday night in the Charlottesville Conference title game, with the Warriors eventually holding on for a 19-17 victory.
Western survived because despite some mistakes, they managed to keep pouring it in, to keep answering whenever Charlottesville struck.
“We just establish that we need to push as hard as we can on every single play,” said Western Albemarle’s A.J. Donovan. “You can’t take one play off because when it’s neck-and-neck the entire game, any team can take a lead and end the game right there.”
Western, led by four of Donovan’s five total goals managed to build a 15-12 lead in the first three quarters. That lead came thanks in large part to a wild final minute to that frame where freshman Sam Stalfort scored back-to-back goals within seven seconds of each other and James Buetow struck with 14 seconds left. But the Black Knights refused to go away, with Sam Randle and Aidan Hockett countering that spurt with two early fourth quarter goals.
The teams traded goals from there until Western’s Sam Herndon and Jack Weyher scored at 4:19 and 3:57 respectively to give Western a 19-16 lead. Charlottesville got a few chances but couldn’t string together enough to equalize.
“I honestly thought 16 points would win the game, we put up 17 against them, that’s a great offensive effort,” said Charlottesville coach Doug Gaspar. “The chain of errors was just 19 too many.”
Part of the Black Knights problem was that the Warriors didn’t take bad shots much of the night. Western put 29 shots on goal, with Donovan and Stalfort each piling up five goals. Those big numbers came in rhythm.
“We had very few possessions where we took a bad shot and that’s all due to fast ball movement,” Donovan said. “That’s something we’ve been developing over the last few weeks and I think it’s really starting to be effective.”
That strong shot selection helped Western offset a slight ground ball edge in favor of the Black Knights (46-42) and Charlottesville’s own explosive effort on the offensive end. Aidan Hockett finished with five goals and Hunter Randle had five as well, including four in a row from late in the third quarter into the early fourth. Sam Neale finished with five assists and Ephraim Antwi notched a hat trick.
Western struggled to slow down the Black Knights throughout, though a late strategic shift seemed to help.
“When we switched away from the zone which we’ve been trying to implement it definitely worked out a lot better,” Donovan said. “Those are just in-game adjustments you have to make.”
Weyher, John Carr Haden and James Buetow all finished with two goals for the Warriors with Herndon, Max Miller and Wilson Kelly rounding out the goal scoring with one each.Haden also had three assists while Stalfort dished out a pair of them.
Western will host Hanover Thursday in the Region 4A South quarterfinals while Charlottesville travels to take on Midlothian the same day.