Western Albemarle’s boys lacrosse team was coming off nine days of spring break rest and only one shorthanded practice Monday, so it wasn’t an ideal lead-up to a clash with archrival Albemarle in Crozet on Tuesday.
With a stingy defense and a decisive third quarter run though, the Warriors were able to take advantage of a string of unforced errors by the Patriots and pick up a critical 11-9 win.
“This is a big one coming back with one day to prep,” said Western coach Alex Whitten. “But they came out and played hard and hats off to Albemarle they played hard the whole game.”
Western blew open its 4-2 halftime advantage with an explosive third quarter, scoring four goals and controlling the tempo to build an 8-3 lead by the end of the frame. That proved to be too much of a hole for the Patriots, who came roaring back with a six-goal fourth quarter but couldn’t get over the hump. Jack Reichert and John Carr Haden each notched hat tricks to power the Western offense with Reichert also handing out an assist while Alex Williamson scored a pair of goals.
“We said at halftime we’re running this team well, we’re outperforming them, we’re just not executing on the punctuation at the end of the sentence,” Whitten said. “We said to the guys continue to play hard, continue to win the ground balls. This is a team that really likes to play as a unit which is great.”
The Warriors’ defense, led by Kovie Bowen, Sam Lesemann and goalie Will Stalfort who had nine huge saves were a big reason Western capitalized on 19 Albemarle turnovers with a 40-24 advantage on ground balls. The Warriors moved the ball efficiently in transition too with Bowen in particular getting the ball up and down quickly to prevent Albemarle from getting many second chances.
“We’ve got some good talent on defense,” Whitten said. “Jack Lesemann played really well, Kovie Bowen played really, really well and Will Stalfort made some saves that were big.”
The Patriots, meanwhile, struggled at times with a younger lineup to execute offensively, creating a slew of dropped passes and unforced errors that prevented them from capitalizing on penalties in critical spots. Albemarle appeared to function better in the chaos of unsettled situations than in its set offense.
“Was the effort great? Yes and we did the things we need to do to win at times,” said Albemarle coach Dave King. “But you just can’t be as young and inexperienced as we are and do the things we’re doing right now. That’s the Achilles’ heel until we decide to fix it. The difference was turnovers, I really think it was.”
Still, the Patriots managed to respond after going into that 8-3 hole and narrow the gap to 9-6 before Western got back on track and combined some insurance goals and clock melting possessions to hold on for the win. Connor Warner’s four goals led the Patriots while Alec Kelly had a hat trick and an assist. Albemarle keeper Matthew Willis helped the Patriots hang around in a big way with 18 saves on the night.
Wilson Kelly, Connor Oot and Jack Weyher each had a goal for the Warriors while Sam Stalfort had two assists.
The Warriors get a break for a week again before taking on Monticello next week on Tuesday while Albemarle hosts Monticello Friday night.