SALEM — Hall of Fame basketball coach Pat Riley coined the phrase “three-peat” after guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to their second consecutive NBA title in the 1988 Finals. Reilly came up with the phrase as L.A. began its pursuit of a third straight championship.
The Western Albemarle girls soccer team is on the brink of that legendary accomplishment in the Virginia High School League following Friday’s 3-0 victory over William Monroe in the Class 3 state semifinals at Salem High School.
Three different players scored goals in the win to set the stage for Coach Jake Desch’s team to play for its third straight Class 3 state championship.
“It feels awesome,” sophomore forward Kelly Rogers said. “It’s amazing representing Western and going to states and getting [a chance at] that title for our school.”
Rogers scored midway through the first half to open the scoring. Kate DeJong gained possession on the right wing and delivered a beautiful cross to Rogers on the back post and the sophomore blasted it inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
“It felt really good,” Rogers said. “We really needed the goal and it was a really good boost for our confidence.”
Rogers’ production was an added bonus for Western Albemarle, which was without the services of one its top offensive weapons. Julia Berg became ill prior to game time and was forced to miss the state semifinal.
William Monroe didn’t get discouraged by the goal and clamped down defensively for the remainder of the first half. Goalkeeper Alex Sharff made five saves in the first half, including a couple big stops from close range to keep the score 1-0 at halftime.
The Greene Dragons, who were making their first state semifinal appearance, went to work offensively in the second half in search of the equalizer. Sydney Dombrovskis’ shot with 27 minutes left was deflected just wide as the Warriors maintained the one-goal lead.
“She had a great game,” said Katrine Berg, the Warriors leading scorer. “We knew we needed to stay tight on her and cover her at all times.”
Ten minutes later, Sharff turned aside another Western Albemarle chance with a diving stop to keep the Dragons in the hunt.
Katrine Berg tacked on an insurance goal with 11:56 left in the second half to give Western Albemarle a commanding 2-0 lead. Berg took a shot from the right wing that deflected off a defender and inside the near post.
Western Albemarle sealed the win in stoppage time as Erin Meier found the back of the net to secure a 3-0 victory.
Rogers enjoyed playing against a team from Central Virginia in the semifinals.
“I like playing a team that we’re more familiar with because no matter who won, it’s still exciting to know it’s a team from the local area going to states,” Rogers said.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking just because we’re familiar with them and we know their team, but it also motivated us to win the game,” Berg said. “We knew we could do it. They had a really great fight against us.”
Saturday’s Class 3 state championship game between Western and Brentsville District will be a rematch of the 2018 final.
The Warriors are set to play in the program’s fifth state championship game. They captured their first title in 2002 and followed it up with back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018. They also reached the finals in 2002.
Berg and the rest of the seniors are excited to have an opportunity to finish their careers as state champions.
“We’re all super excited and it really motivates us,” Berg said. “It will be really amazing because it’s our last year and I really want to end it with a bang,” Berg said. “We’re pretty confident. We know if we all play our game and play our best that we can do it.”