Pride of a Warrior: Four Teams Reach State Championship Games

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By David Wagner

The 2015 Spring sports season turned out to be a Warrior showcase as Western Albemarle High School sent four teams to the state finals at Liberty University June 13. Varsity Boys’ and Girls’ Lacrosse, Varsity Girls’ Tennis and Varsity Girls’ Soccer all competed for state titles on the same day. There was a bit of disappointment as none of them came away with a championship, but it was a big day nonetheless for the Warriors.

The boys’ lacrosse team under Head Coach Alex Whitten again came close to realizing their title dreams (Last year they lost in the state semi-finals to eventual state champion Albemarle High School). Head Coach Tara Hohenshelt and the girl’s lacrosse team battled their way to the finals on the road through the regional playoffs. Head Coach Jacob Desch and an inexperienced girls’ soccer team turned a lot of heads on their way to the finals and Head Coach Ellen Markowitz and her resilient girls’ tennis team gave a valiant effort trying to defend their 2014 state title. The four teams combined for three conference titles, two regional titles and four state runner-ups. Each team returns many talented performers next year.

Varsity boys’ lacrosse started their playoff run cruising through the Charlottesville group beating both Fluvanna and Monticello for the third time this season. In the conference semi-finals the Warriors took an 8-1 lead to the half over Fluvanna and rolled to a 15-1 win over the Flucos. In the group finals Monticello hung with Western early and only trailed 8-5 at the half but the Warriors took control of the game in the third period, scoring six straight goals to beat the Mustangs 16-8.

In the region playoffs the Warriors went on the road to defeat Midlothian before coming back home to face Salem in the 4A South Region Finals. The Warriors opened the season at Salem with a resounding 21-1 win over a squad that is usually extremely competitive. The region finals were not much different as Western rolled to a 19-3 win at home. Once again goalie Jackson Sours and the defense stood tall for the Warriors and enabled the offense to apply continuous pressure on Salem. Defensemen Matthew Mullin, Oliver Herndon, Sam Leeseman, Kyle Landis, Garland Carter and Josh Meeks thwarted any attack Salem could muster. Luke Reilly scored eight goals, Holland Corbett added five, and Clark Sipe tallied four assists and two goals.

The Warriors were at home in the state semi-finals to face Fauquier County High School. Fauquier held a 3-2 lead at the end of the first quarter but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Western outscored the Falcons 7-2 in the second behind two goals a piece from Elliot and Taylor Godine to give the Warriors a 9-5 lead at the half. The two teams traded goals at the beginning of the third quarter as Western led 11-7. The Warriors then scored four consecutive goals to take a commanding 15-7 lead and never looked back, earning an 18-10 victory and a berth in the state finals. Elliot scored five goals, A. J. Donovan added four more, while Sipe and Ryan Ingram each had four assists.

In the state finals the Warriors faced perennial power Loudoun Valley High School at Liberty University. Western got off to a good start, taking a 2-0 lead. Goalie Jackson Sours made two spectacular saves. After Elliot tacked on another goal the Warriors led 3-2 at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings made adjustments and Loudoun Valley scored four goals in as many minutes, stealing momentum to lead 8-4 at the half.

Western held the Vikings to one goal in the third quarter while scoring three of their own. Reilly scored just two minutes into the period off an Elliot assist and Elliot added the other two goals to cut Loudoun Valley’s lead to 9-7. Western seemed poised for a comeback, but on the opening face-off the Warriors were called for a controversial unsportsmanlike penalty, leaving them a man down for three minutes. The Vikings scored four goals and the Warriors never recovered. Loudoun Valley won 15-10 and took home the 4A State Championship.

The Warriors graduated some exceptional talent but bring back a number of excellent players. Gone are Nick Crissey, Clark Sipe, Sumner Corbett, Holland Corbett and Taylor Godine, but the Warriors top two scorers, Elliot and Reilly, will return. Defensively, Leeseman, Kyle Landis and Josh Meeks will be missed, but goalie Sours returns along with defensemen Oliver Herndon and Garland Carter.

Girls’ lacrosse had a much different journey to the state finals. After crushing Charlottesville High School 15-4 in the group semi-finals, the Warriors traveled to Monticello for the group championship game. The Mustangs rode the momentum of the home crowd to a 13-11 victory, capturing the group title. The Warriors then traveled to Midlothian High School and won a back-and-forth game, scoring seven of the last nine goals to win 13-10.

The Warriors were home for a regional playoff game versus Rockbridge County High School. Western took an 8-3 lead into the break behind three goals from freshman midfielder Audrey Russell and two from freshman midfielder Kira Repich, and then cruised to victory by a final of 19-8.

In the region championship they took on a strong, talented Salem High School squad in Salem. The game went down to the wire before Kate Snyder scored the game winner with 19 seconds to play, giving the Warriors a 13-12 win and the 4A South Region Championship.

In the state semi-finals they faced George Mason High School out of Falls Church at home. Mason jumped on the Warriors, but Western came back to take 4-3 lead behind goals from Joie Funk, Magargee and Audrey Russell. Teams traded goals until Mason scored four straight to end the half with a 9-7 lead.

Western took control of the game in the second half, scoring seven of the next eight goals. Ellie Allen (who will play for George Washington University in the fall) and Kate Snyder each scored two goals and held off Mason to win 16-11, earning a berth in the state title game.

Following nail biters versus Midlothian and Salem and a halftime deficit against Mason, the Warriors were ready for another scrappy, close game against the 4A North Champs, Woodgrove High School of Loudoun County.

The lead changed hands five times in the first half. Western struck first just 27 seconds into the game when Hanna Schuler scored off of an assist from Genevieve Russell. Woodgrove scored the next two goals before Western countered with two of their own. But before the half was over, Woodgrove scored four straight goals and led 8-5. The Warriors never got closer.

In the second half, Woodgrove stepped up the defensive pressure and scored four goals in the first 5:42 of the half, taking a 12-6 lead. The Warriors did not manage to score again until late in the game when Bella Moriconi scored twice. Woodgrove won 16-8.

The departure of team captain and offensive leader Ellie Allen will leave a vacancy and Coach Hohenshelt will have to replace goalie Hamilton Ibbeken. But the Warriors have plenty of offensive talent returning with Magargee leading the charge. Sophomore goalie Catherine Adams is waiting in the wings to fill Ibbeken’s shoes, along with a strong cast of returning players.

Girls’ soccer made an impressive run to the state finals as well. Behind strong defense, the Warriors found their stride going into the post-season. Goalie Erin Farina and a formidable defense posted 12 shutouts along the way. Seniors Langlee King, Sarah Honosky and Lillian Meggs shored up the defensive end and freshmen Caitlin Harvey, Jane Romness and Elizabeth Fabiano surprised everyone on the attack.

The Warriors opened the Conference 29 playoffs with a 6-0 win over Waynesboro and followed it up with consecutive 2-0 wins over Broadway and Spotswood to outscore their opponents 10-0 in the conference playoffs. In the 3A West Regional playoffs they shut out Cave Spring High School, 5-0, at home. Ava Coles, Shannon Moore, Jane Romness, Genna Repich and Harvey scored for the Warriors.

Freshman dominated the scoring in the Waynesboro game as well. Elizabeth Fabiano scored twice and Moore had a goal and added an assist in that game. They next upset Amherst before facing Blacksburg in the Region finals, earning a spot in the state playoffs. An experienced Blacksburg team proved to be too much for the Warriors and won the match 2-0. Western then went to Aldie [Loudoun County] to face John Champe High School in the semi-finals. Nichole Heon scored the game’s lone goal as the Warriors moved on to the State Championship game.

The Warriors again faced Blacksburg High School, but this time it was for all the marbles. The Warriors were not intimidated. It was a physical game in which the officials, “let ‘em play” and the young Western team didn’t back down. For the final 40 minutes Western gave it their all, creating some chances, but they just could not get that finishing touch. Blacksburg downed down the Warriors 1-0 and won the 3A Girl’s State Championship.

With most of their offensive firepower returning, along with goalie Farina, the Warriors should be serious contenders next year. Coach Desch has a plethora of talent and now a playoff-seasoned club. They finished 2015 with 17 wins, four losses, three ties and a 3A State runner-up banner to hang in the rafters.

Head Coach Ellen Markowitz and the girls’ tennis team were on everybody’s radar to start 2015, as they were set to defend their 2014 state title. They barely missed the mark. They steamrolled the competition through the regular season, going undefeated until the 3A West Region Championship match where they lost to the only team that beat them all year, Cave Spring High School.

In the Conference 29 playoffs the Lady Warriors dispatched Turner Ashby 5-0 before facing Spotswood in the finals. Maddy Ix, Stephanie Barton, Hannah Kearns, Noelle Stith, and Mia Singnil closed it out for the Warriors, winning 5-1, and the doubles teams did not even take the court.

In the region playoffs the Warriors breezed past Brookville High School to face Blacksburg. Ix, Barton, Kearns and Savannah Diamond, and the doubles team of Ix/Barton took care of business, 5-2, to send Western into the region finals and the first match-up with Cave Spring. Ix (the team’s top player) missed the match due to illness, forcing the Warriors to play with a substitution. They played with tremendous heart and determination. Cave Spring won the match 5-4 and took the region crown but not without a strong effort from Western. Diamond, Rosy Ix, Stith and the doubles team of Diamond and Anna O’Shea won for Western, keeping the match within reach.

Even with the loss the Warriors qualified for the state playoffs and they bounced back in strong fashion. Facing York County High School, Western came up big with a 5-2 win and put themselves back in the state championship. Kearns, Diamond, Rosy Ix, Stith and the doubles team of Kearns/Rosey Ix secured the win, sending the team to the finals in a rematch with Cave Spring.

Even with Maddy Ix in the line-up for this match, Western couldn’t pull off the upset and they lost 5-4. They finished the season with a remarkable 22-2 record and the State Champions were the only team to beat them. They still finished as 3A State Runner-ups, a tremendous season by any standard.

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