No. 1 — Louisa County football
It was so story book, so right for the moment that it almost seemed scripted. With the way this team played in 2017, the return of so much talent paired with the announcement before the season that coach Mark Fischer would be retiring, it just fueled a fire that was already solidly burning. The Lions came out and pounded teams. Their 62-21 win over a then unbeaten Monticello in week seven was as big of a regular season statement we’ve seen in the Jefferson District in years. The depth on this roster was out of control. Offensively, the line was the star with Tony Thurston leading things up front and Job Whalen and Malik Bell having huge games on the ground. Defensively, it was more Thurston, an awful lot of Brandon Smith in the middle, and a secondary that improved greatly. The Lions even had a solid special teams unit, a bit of a rarity even in their best of years.
In the playoffs, the Lions shook off a slow start with Courtland to set up what became an amazing show on the road. Louisa’s 35-28 thriller with Monacan ranked number 4 in our Top-10 games of the year. The Lions then took down the top ranked team in the Region in a great back-and-forth 38-27 win over Dinwiddie. That earned them a home playoff game with Lafayette in the state semifinals, a truly rare December home game that saw the Lions race out to a strong lead only to have to hold off the Raiders late down the stretch.
For the first time since Goochland made it in 2012, Central Virginia had a VHSL football team playing in a state title game. It was also the first time a Jefferson District team qualified for one since Monticello in 2007. Louisa’s performance in the game was gritty. While the Lions fell short, their comeback effort after giving a big lead early brought Louisa fans to their feet on a very cold night in Williamsburg. While the ending wasn’t quite as fairy tale as those in Mineral would have liked, it didn’t make the 2017 campaign any less memorable. If the ‘17-18 season was about any one team, it was undoubtedly Louisa County football.
No. 2 — Western Albemarle boys tennis
If this was simply a list of the most dominant campaigns, Western Albemarle’s boys tennis team would be No. 1 without any real doubt. It was seemingly impossible to take a point, much less a game off what was probably the best VHSL tennis team regardless of classification. When the defending state champs added Gavin Seagraves at the top of the ladder to an already loaded roster, a repeat appeared to be a lock and the Warriors made good on that promise, blowing past the Class 3 competition en route to a title. The Warriors even won the state championship match 5-0, beating York soundly in the final.With Seagraves, Ix, Daniel Thomas, Jack Tribble, Nicholas Hagspiel and Simon Rader, the Warriors were just too deep, too talented and too consistent for anyone to possible stand in their way in 2018.
No. 3 — Western Albemarle boys basketball
When Ryan Ingram graduated, it wasn’t that things appeared bleak for Western Albemarle boys basketball — it’s just that legitimately nobody really knew what this edition of the Warriors were going to
look like. But a trio of seniors emerged from Ingram’s shadow — Jed Strickland, Chris McGahren and Teo Rampini — and melded with sophomores Tommy Mangrum and Garrett Payne as well as a productive bench to set a new standard for Western boys basketball. It didn’t happen right away though. Western beat essentially everyone they were supposed to beat but struggled to get over the hump in big games, falling to Albemarle late in January in a particularly painful defeat and then again in the Jefferson District semifinals. Those losses turned to callouses in the playoffs though as a tougher, rugged Western squad emerged, unafraid of being the underdog, knowing they had a shot. After crushing Broadway and Rustburg in the Region 3C tournament, Western went to Spotswood and shocked the Blazers to win a region title. Then the Warriors beat Hidden Valley in the state quarterfinals on a last second shot and proceeded to take their road show south where they beat previously undefeated Northside in the state final four. The Warriors — an unknown quantity entering the
season — completed a run all the way to the state championship game, locking up a shot at John Marshall in the title match. Western fell to John Marshall, but that loss hardly tarnished the incredible run.
No. 4 — Albemarle boys soccer
It’s always the even years for the Albemarle boys. 2012, 2014 and 2016 all resulted in state final showings with the Patriots winning two of those three. In 2018, Albemarle cemented this an official trend thanks to an undefeated season that saw them win a Class 5A championship in penalty kicks in what amounted to our number one ranked game of the year.
This team had everything. A new coach in Zach Laird. A workhorse striker in Andrew Starr, a pair of great facilitators in Andrew Weber and Brandon Mahon and a great defense anchored with a senior goalkeeper in Thomas Leckrone. The Patriots rolled through Jefferson District play unbeaten, although weather robbed us of a second meeting with Charlottesville that should have been a fantastic contest. The completion of sweep of Western Albemarle sent the Patriots into the Region 5A playoffs without a loss. In the Patriots had little trouble bringing home a Region Championship. After narrowly surviving their Class 5A quarterfinal against Wakefield in their last possible home game of the season, in Glen Allen Albemarle destroyed semifinal opponent Briar Woods before winning in dramatic fashion against Deep Run in penalty kicks..
For a senior class, some of whom were on the 2016 squad that won it all, this was the ultimate swan song. And while the odd years are traditionally rebuilding years, the Patriots have enough coming back that they just might be able to buck that trend in 2019.
No. 5 — Western Albemarle girls soccer
It’s hard to improve upon a state championship run. That’s just about as good as it gets. But Western Albemarle’s core of standouts in the Class of 2018 knew even after winning the Class 3 title as juniors that they had things left to accomplish. First of all, the Warriors were intent on repeating. No Western soccer team, boys or girls, has ever repeated as state champions. So for seniors like Elizabeth Fabiano, Abby Zimmerman, Jane Romness, Caitlin Harvey and Shannon Moore, that was an important chance to establish a legacy. But the Warriors also hadn’t beaten their archrival Albemarle during the 2017 state championship run. That’s no knock on the Warriors. One of those games was played in a monsoon and the Patriots were awfully good in their own right, the Class 5 state champions that year. This season Albemarle was no slouch either, completing a third straight run to the state final four. Western, however, managed to sweep the Patriots and earn the senior class’ first Jefferson District title and the first win handed the Patriots their first district loss since 2013. With that hurdle overcome, Western and its talented group of underclassmen like Savannah Wilson, Julia Berg and Katrine Berg went back to work on the Class 3 field, rolling to a Region 3C championship with wins of 9-0, 8-0 and 2-0 (over upstart Monticello girls soccer) before beating Lord Botetourt 1-0 in the state quarterfinals, Hidden Valley 5-0 in the semifinals and Brentsville 3-0 in the title match. Western didn’t surrender a single goal in the playoffs behind defenders Moore, Katrine Berg and Kate De Jong as well as keeper Bailey Wood, while outscoring opponents 28-0. It was dominant. It was impressive. And it set the bar as perhaps the finest Western girls soccer team in program history.
No. 6 — Fluvanna County baseball
The post season was a little too short in 2017. The Flucos had more talent than to get bounced so early. With almost its entire roster back in 2018, but still relatively young with mostly underclassmen, it was hard to know what to expect from Fluvanna. With long time coach Mike Sheridan giving up the reins so he could enjoy watching his son play high school lacrosse, the former skipper leaned on JV coach Joel Grey to take over — after all he had coached much of this roster already. Sometimes things just click. Behind Jacob Critzer, Andrew and Kevin Ward, Dashon Carter, Noah Brown, and down the list the Flucos were versatile and multi dimensional. They picked up a win to start the season, one on the road against Goochland. While that win meant later in the year with the Bulldogs getting to the Class 2A final four, it was really only an early sign that Fluvanna had some solid depth.
It was the Flucos’ 8-7 win on the road at Louisa that was an official sign to the rest of the Jefferson District that Fluvanna was to be taken very seriously. With wins overs Western Albemarle, the Flucos put together a solid regular season, but a couple of losses at the end begged the question as to just how far this group could go and whether it was up the playoff pressure. That question was answered quickly. Fluvanna barreled through Region 3B. The Flucos took down Fort Defiance, Spotswood and Western Albemarle to win the programs first ever Region championship and set up a home Class 3A quarterfinal. Fluvanna advanced through Northside to its first ever state final four before being upended by Abingdon but with so little turnover on the roster, the off season should be an exciting one as they try and gear up for another big run in 2019.
No. 7 — Miller boys basketball
The Mavericks fell hard in their 2017 VISAA Division 2 state title game against Blue Ridge. Hard enough that it drove them for all of 2018. With a three-headed monster back between Deshaun Wade, Aundre Hyatt and Dae Dae Heard, competing with the depth of this roster proved to the challenge for Miller’s opponents. With all three of them averaging 13 points per game or more, teams were left helpless with Jaylin Reed and Tariq Balogun becoming role players to a roster that returned a solid senior pair of them in Teemu Tumanoff and Brent Rice.
Miller bulldozed through its schedule dropping just four contests along the way and finishing the season on a 13 game winning that started on February 1st. With four wins over Blue Ridge, including wins in the VIC championship and state title game at Virginia State, the Mavericks were able to return the favor from last year when they had the same thing done to them. In the state tournament, the Mavericks had some struggles with Millwood in the quarterfinals but against VES in the semifinals and Blue Ridge this team was dialed up to a different level. With Hyatt and Heard both returning for their senior years, the Mavericks could well be in line for a third straight trip to play at Virginia State University in the state finals.
No. 8 — William Monroe girls basketball
Expectations can’t be low if you’ve got Sam Brunelle on your roster. But outside of Brunelle’s once-in-a-generation talent, William Monroe was breaking in a lot of new faces in 2017-2018, including freshman point guard Hailey Morris. The Dragons looked to a pack of underclassmen to step into the other three open spots in the starting five and everyone on the roster delivered. Brunelle put together her finest season to date with 30.0 points per game and 16.0 boards per game while also dishing out 3.5 assists on average and rejecting 74 shots. That’s incredible across-the-board productivity and it was a huge reason the Dragons won the Northwestern District title and advanced to the Region 3B title game to earn a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 1988, ending a 30-year drought. Monroe fell in the state quarterfinals to Hopewell, eventually succumbing to Hopewell’s high pressure defense, but that end didn’t take away from the incredible run the young Dragons had, with critical contributions from hard-nosed defenders Katie and Lacey Beale, freshman Jenna Velasquez and Morris, who averaged 9.0 points and 3.0 assists per game while earning first team All-Northwestern District honors. Brunelle earned VHSL Class 3A state and Gatorade Virginia player of the year nods. Now that entire group — slated to be back together next year — will get a chance to top last year’s effort.It’ll be a tall order.
No. 9 — Miller baseball
As the defending VISAA Division 2 champions returning the bulk of its roster from last season, much was expected of the Mavericks in 2018. While expectations have been high for this program since its first run to the state title game back in 2014, there was something different about 2018. Miller had a level of swagger that comes from winning a state title, and while the Mavericks hit a couple of bumps in their usual out-of-state road trip to start the year and fell in a couple of close battles with Benedictine and Greenbrier Christian, there was no panic. And why not with seniors Adam Hackenberg, Stu Barrett and Ethan Murray leading the way? Those leaders set the table for breakout seasons from Ethan Chenault and Jack Marshall who were both major players offensively all season.
The Mavericks went into the Division 2 tournament riding a seven game win streak to earn the top seed. After thumping Isle of Wight 10-0 in the quarterfinals, Miller took down Atlantic Shores 11-1 in the semifinals to earn their fourth trip in five seasons to the championship game. Facing a Steward team it had already defeated twice in the regular season, the Mavericks jumped out to an early lead, played outstanding defense and watched Barrett wrap up a complete game shutout to give the program its second straight state title, 3-0. Winning state titles is difficult enough, but winning them when the pressure is on to do so before you ever take the field adds an extra dimension. The Mavericks were not phased by that at all.
No. 10 – Monticello Girls Lacrosse
Considering Monticello girls lacrosse had a new head coach in Langley Sloan and had to replace a bunch of key role players that were part of Arizona State-bound star Paige McGlothlin’s supporting cast as a junior including keeper Carly Harris, it would’ve been understandable if the Mustangs couldn’t match last year’s success that included a state tournament berth. But with a dynamic offense led by McGlothlin (93 goals, 32 assists), Caleigh Smith (60 goals, 39 assists) and Josie Mallory (47 goals, 28 assists), the Mustangs found even greater success in 2018, picking up the program’s first region championship and a second straight state tournament berth while also picking up a couple of key wins over rival Western Albemarle. The Mustangs fell 16-15 on the road to the Warriors in the teams’ first meeting but bounced back to win the second regular season meeting and an elimination playoff game in the region semifinals that clinched a state state tournament berth. With Meghan Walin and Kendall Smith giving the offense some added punch beyond the big three, the Mustangs’ young defense made huge strides during the year with sophomores Tara Meissner, Amaya Gibson and Becca Nordt emerging as a cohesive unit in front of keeper Lindsay Gunsallas down the stretch. It was a huge season for the Mustangs who won 10 of their last 12 games and a fitting end to Paige McGlothlin’s incredible career for Monticello that cemented her as the program’s most productive player.
Key wins along the way included beating Western Albemarle 11-9 in Region 4A Semifinal to clinch second straight state tournament berth, beating Hanover 19-7 to win program’s first region title and beating Hidden Valley 19-11 in state quarterfinals.