SALEM — Western Albemarle boys soccer coach Milo Oakland raved about his team’s ability to score early, especially during the team’s run through the VHSL Class 3 state tournament.
The Warriors didn’t score early Saturday afternoon, but they made up for it with four second-half goals to defeat Northside 4-0 in the state championship game at Spartan Stadium.
Joey Paulson scored a pair of goals and Carter Spilman added a goal and an assist as the Warriors claimed their fourth state title in program history, and third since 2014.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, I can’t even describe it,” Spilman said. “I’ve been in this program playing for a championship every single year and this is the first one we’ve gotten. It’s unbelievable.”
Western Albemarle turned in a strong 80 minutes of soccer and allowed the offense to come alive in the second half to secure the victory.
“We got really focused right from the start,” Spilman said. “The weather and some other things were kind of distracting at first, but we held it together as a team. We talked a lot at halftime about playing our game and playing together and we really showed that in the second half.”
Oakland’s halftime pep talk worked wonders.
Western Albemarle scored two minutes into the second half on a header from Sam Vigilante on a corner kick for a 1-0 lead with 38:25 left.
“We got that corner and normally Colby [Wren] floats it to the back post,” Vigilante said. “He hit this one hard and fast to the near post and I was working my butt off to get to the near post to beat my man and just by chance and got a great header on it. When I saw that net move, it was such a relief.”
Vigilante celebrated with his teammates following the goal that gave the Warriors a new-found confidence.
“That was everything,” Vigilante said. “That first goal really revived us and gave us the energy to finish it out.”
Northside tried to answer in the next 10 minutes with two quality chances. Daniel Pereira, a Virginia Tech signee, had a free kick opportunity from about 25 yards out that curled around the wall, but just above the crossbar and out of play.
Five minutes later, Western Albemarle goalkeeper Jack Frey made a great save on a long strike from Giovanni Maffucci Murillo to preserve the one-goal lead.
“I had a lot of confidence in us and I thought one goal was all we needed,” Spilman said. “Our mentality is not to [score] one goal and drop in. We’re always pressuring and want to keep our foot on the gas so we did that.”
That’s when Spilman took over the game.
The senior forward was fouled in the penalty area with 16:13 left in the game, resulting in a penalty kick. Spilman calmly stepped to the spot and buried a chance inside the right post for a 2-0 lead.
“I usually always go right,” Spilman said. “But you’re always nervous on the spot. I wasn’t thinking at all; I was just hoping it would go in, so I’m thankful.”
Six minutes later, Spilman was hauled down in the box again, resulting in another penalty kick opportunity. Casey Williamson was called on to take the shot, but Northside goalkeeper Scott Newman punched the ball out to make the save.
The play wasn’t over, however. Paulson corralled the loose ball and scored on the rebound for a 3-0 lead. The junior said he was ready to pounce in case the keeper made the save.
“There were two guys to my right, so I figured I might as well put myself in front of these guys,” Paulson said. “That ball rebounded right back out to me and saw the right corner and slipped it by.”
Paulson capped the scoring two minutes later on a nice feed from Spilman to take a commanding 4-0 advantage with seven minutes to play.
Carter slipped me in, an incredible ball by him, and I was super stoked to score,” Paulson said.”
The championship marked a sensational ending to a great season for Western Albemarle.
“It’s pretty freaking awesome,” Paulson said. “This is my first soccer championship. My brother had two state championships, so it’s good to get one under my belt.”