Western Albemarle girls lacrosse senior Erica Repich knew early in the season that the best move for the Warriors was for her to shift back and play defense instead of the role she’d played most recently as a scorer and midfielder.
“We had a lot of younger players on our team that I think deserved that spot at midfield and I was like, I’m going to let them grow this year with the great team we have, with so many mentors,” Repich said. “I wanted to go back to my roots, which is defense — be that backup for the middies.”
When Repich made a tremendous first half play, intercepting a pass before navigating a lot of traffic from Dominion’s ride to give the ball back to a Western offense who’d built an 8-5 halftime lead in the Class 4 state title game, it felt like Repich and the rest of the Warriors’ efforts to put the team and program first were about to pay off in the squad’s first state championship since 2010.
But Dominion surged in the second half, scoring nine goals after the break to knock off the previously unbeaten Warriors 14-10, securing the Titans second-straight state title.
“This program is really special, it’s a great group of girls,” said Western senior Mattie Shearer. “I’m just super grateful to be a part of this team have the chance to make it to the state final. Unfortunately we didn’t get the outcome we wanted but I’m super proud to be a part of this team.”
The Warriors built that 8-5 lead at the break with the offense clipping along like it has much of the season, with Mallory Greene and Shearer notching three goals and two goals respectively. That one-two punch has been a huge part of Western’s regular season and postseason success.
In the second half though, a Dominion (14-0) squad that has been equally potent offensively while averaging double digit goals got going in a big way, equalizing with 17:27 to play on a goal by junior Villanova commit Ashlyn Hickey. Hickey scored twice and hauled in 10 draw controls, winning critical draw after critical draw in the second half in particular. That boosted an offensive effort led by San Diego State bound senior Tierney Schaible and junior Jamie Lee who each notched hat tricks.
While Dominion got rolling, Western had several chances to get back on track. The first came when Shearer forced a turnover but Dominion keeper Caelan Jones made a huge save on a Sophie Lanahan shot. Jones found an outlet and ignited a fastbreak the other way where Cate Knesel scored her lone goal and put the Titans up 13-9. Western broke back, and cut the lead to 13-10, but penalties and fouls by Western helped Dominion go to work on the clock down the stretch. The Titans held possession for much of the final eight minutes of the game.
Western just couldn’t get over the hump and stack together a run that could change things, especially without holding possession for much of the closing minutes.
“I think we get in our own heads and I’m a superstitious person, so I think it was the eye black, we shouldn’t worn that because whenever we wear it we lose,” Repich said. “But I think overall we played our hardest and I think it was a great season overall — we learned so much from each other.”
The loss ends the careers of a special group of seniors led by Repich, Shearer (two goals, two assists) and Libby Carbo (one goal, two assists).
“Even though we’re the same age, they know so many things about lacrosse and we just help each other out in so many different ways emotionally and on the field,” Repich said. “And off the field we’re all best friends so it’s been great growing up with them since fourth grade playing lacrosse.”
Nina Bowen, Kate Wallace, Caroline Jones, Casey Phillips and Anna Sojka will also be tough to replace. But freshmen Juliana Murphy (one goal) Reeve Goldstein, Maggie Craytor (one goal, one assist) and Katie Alhusen as well as sophomore keeper Kennedy Buntrock are slated to join Greene and Sophie Lanahan (one goal, one assist) next year and that group of young players has Shearer fired up about the future of Western lacrosse.
“We have a really solid group of younger girls and I’m really excited to see where they’re going to go in the future — I know they’re going to do big things,” Shearer said.