It’s difficult to call games in the first month of the season big, but Thursday night’s showdown between the Western Albemarle and Charlottesville field hockey teams had that postseason feel to it.
Mallory Greene gave the crowd what they wanted as she scored a goal 12 minutes into the game. Greene’s goal proved to be the only goal in the Warriors’ 1-0 win in a showdown of unbeaten teams.
“We all knew that we had to hustle to every ball and work as a team together because we knew we wouldn’t be able to do this by individual skill alone,” Greene said. “We just really worked as a team and really got the job done.”
Charlottesville (4-1, 3-1 Jefferson District) had the energy to start the game and dominated the majority of the possession in the first 10 minutes and was awarded a pair of penalty corners in the process. But Western Albemarle’s back line of Lena Egl, Caroline Teague and Jane Servine did a good job of clearing the circle in front of netminder Addie Patterson to prevent any shots on goal.
The Warriors (5-0, 3-0) settled down after the early rush, focusing on generating offense of their own. The tactic worked as Western Albemarle held the bulk of the possession over the final 20 minutes of the first half.
“We just wanted to get the ball wide if we could and keep it out of the middle if we could,” Fields said. “We wanted to do a lot of short passes to move the ball up the field and I think that kind of helped us create space and move the ball up the field.”
During pregame warm-ups, Warriors assistant coach Katherine Kline worked with the team on generating scoring chances inside the circle. That extra work was rewarded with 17:30 left as Greene scored the lone goal of the game.
Sophie Lanahan gained possession on the right wing and delivered a perfect cross through two sticks to Greene 12 yards from goal.
The sophomore wristed a shot on goal that trickled through traffic in front and just past Charlottesville goalkeeper Casey Casarez.
“In practice, we were working on that exact drill,” Greene said. “Sophie was on the side and I was at the top [of the circle] and she hit a really nice ball and I just swept it into the goal. I didn’t think it would go in, but it did.”
Fields was pleased with the effort on the goal.
“If you put the ball in the circle, someone is going to get a stick on it and score and Mallory just had her stick in the right place and opportunity knocked,” she said.
Charlottesville had an opportunity to answer just before halftime as Lilykate Sweeney hit a drive from inside the circle.
Patterson tried to kick the ball away, but the ball deflected into the back of the cage with 38.6 seconds left.
The officials waived off the goal, rewarding a free hit instead.
The second half was more of the same as both teams battled for the ball up and down the field.
The Black Knights had two chances to get the equalizer in the final 20 minutes, but were unable to get a shot on frame. With 16:37 left, Sweeney hit a drive off a penalty corner that was turned aside by Patterson.
In the final minute, Maya Block tried to hit a backhand shot past the keeper, but her shot trickled just wide and out of play.
Fields couldn’t be prouder of her team.
“I thought our team definitely played as a team tonight,” Fields said. “It was a great effort and I think everyone did what they needed to do to get the victory.”