Western Albemarle’s coaching staff has been working with goalie Jack Frey on not coming off the line early in penalty kicks. But maybe there’s a method to Frey’s madness though.
“In hindsight it might have helped,” said coach Milo Oakland. “Doing whatever it takes to get that save and now you’ve got confidence.”
After a scoreless regulation period and 20 minutes of scoreless overtime, Western Albemarle and Spotswood went to penalty kicks sometime around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night in a match delayed for about an hour and a half by lightning after getting underway.
Frey made a stop on Spotswood’s first penalty kick but got called for coming off early. The foul didn’t matter much because after the Trailblazers hit a crossbar on the do-over, Frey made two more saves to keep a clean sheet in PKs, lifting Western to a Class 3, Region C championship while earning the Warriors a home game Tuesday in the Class 3 state quarterfinals.
“I looked at the shooters’ eyes and stared them down and it was easy to read it,” Frey said.
It helps that he’s faced a slew of players in practice who are excellent at penalty kicks. The Warriors prepped their own keeper well.
“We’ve been practicing PKs for awhile and our guys have been hitting really good ones and I could tell Jack is getting frustrated because he wasn’t making a lot of saves, so to step in here and get a chance to prove how good of a PK goalie he is, I was really happy for him,” Oakland said
Western’s own penalty-kick takers sealed the win, with Johnny Riordan, Jed Strickland and Luke Magargee all converting to give the Warriors a 3-0 win in the shootout. It was an ugly, gutty win just before midnight that was essentially a necessity after the long delay. With both teams’ rhythm thrown off, it was going to come down to a mistake or penalty kicks. Western managed to hold its mental focus through the end after turning away a number of Spotswood counter attacks.
“As a coach I’m having a blast now, it took me awhile to get going, I felt like I wasn’t doing my best work early in the season, I was taking too long to make decisions,” Oakland said. “These guys just figured it out, they turned around their mentality, their chemistry and they’re better friends now than I’ve ever seen.”
The Warriors nearly finished in during one of the overtime periods with one corner kick in particular. Magargee lifted the ball and Strickland elevated but Spotswood’s keeper Samuel Alvarez made an incredible stop to help push the game into penalty kicks.
Western will now host the Region D runner-up, either Cave Spring or Lord Botetourt.