Western field hockey tops Monticello for state tourney berth

On a night filled with aggressive, back-and-forth play on the speedy UVa turf field, Western Albemarle’s Madeline DuCharme saw her opening with just under six minutes to play and jumped at the chance, collecting a loose ball in Western’s offensive zone.

“There was a girl on me and I wanted to get inside the circle and take the shot but she was too close so I took it and hoped someone would be there,” DuCharme said.

There was someone there. DuCharme’s blast off the loose ball didn’t find the backboard, but the sterling kick save by Monticello goalie Gina Weigold went right to Western center midfielder Olivia Hajek’s stick, set up out high in front of the goal.

“Like a magnet,” DuCharme said.

Without hesitation, Hajek blasted the ball toward the bottom left corner of the goal for what would become the game-winning goal and a 1-0 victory for the Warriors. With the win, Western’s third over the Mustangs this season, the Warriors secure a berth in the state tournament and Saturday’s Region II tournament final.

“I sort of looked and saw that nobody was coming to me and then I just hit it,” Hajek said.

What made the loss heartbreaking for Monticello was that from about the last four minutes until DuCharme’s play down the stretch, the Mustangs largely controlled the run of play. Western’s coach Mia Fields apparently admitted as much during the postgame handshake.

“Coach Fields, the first thing she said to me when we were shaking hands was ‘you outplayed us’,” said Monticello coach Katie Owens. “We just have to find a way in the future to put the ball in the cage.”

The Mustangs seemed to come together all at once late in the first half, when Maggie Graff got things started with a steal before Western’s Emma Weiss managed to shut her off. After that Monticello went on the assault, with Georgia Proutt and Brittany Haun barely missing strong shots in the final minute and 30 seconds of the period.

“It was beautiful — beautiful passes and connections,” Owens said. “We just didn’t finish.”

They carried that momentum over into the second, particularly the early stages when Haun unleashed another shot on a great opportunity. Still, the Mustangs were plagued by an inability to scratch together a goal despite having nearly twice as many chances than Western did.

Western’s defensive play helped, with Abbie Starns, Weiss and Stewart Summers helping preserve the shutout in front of keeper Maya Langman. Langman had several critical, timely plays and helped run the defense well.

“We’re trying to play as a unit a lot—there was a breakdown on the left that my right midfielder ran all the way across the field to make the defensive stop,” Fields said. “It was good strong defense as a team.”