Western hockey secures Region II title, state semifinal berth

Trips to Virginia Beach for the state tournament aren’t rare for Western Albemarle High’s field hockey team. Far from it. The Warriors won the state championship in 2007 and advanced to the semifinals every year from 2008 to 2010. The current senior class has never not headed east in early November to compete at the National Training Center for a chance at the Group AA/A title.

But that’s the interesting thing about this year’s squad. There are just two seniors on the Warriors’ roster, and the talent and scoring are, simply based on the numbers, concentrated in the junior and sophomore classes. Many state title contenders get to that point based on well-developed senior leadership but Western Albemarle doesn’t have that luxury.

That didn’t matter much Saturday night as a Becca Marconi goal lifted the Warriors to a 1-0 victory over Fauquier in the Region II championship, vaulting Western to another state semifinal appearance.

The Warriors play the winner of the Grafton/Northumberland first round matchup at 11 a.m. Friday, which means they’ll most likely face heavily-favored Grafton, the squad Western beat for the state title in 2007.

Marconi scored midway through the first half and that was just enough as a strong team defensive effort bolstered the Warriors to the win. Goalie Maya Langman came up with a series of stops during a critical early stretch for Western.

“(Western’s defenders) were all marking, marking, marking and then Maya came up with the save,” said Western coach Mia Fields. “And when she comes up with the save after they’re all marking well, they all just feel rejuvenated.”

Part of the reason that defense could mark so well was a formation adjustment that accounted for dynamic Fauquier left wing Miceile Barrett, who has poured in more than 100 goals in her career.

“We changed our formation a little bit because they had a really strong player at left wing (Barrett),” Fields said. “So we had to switch things around but the girls stepped up.”

The defensive switch worked and now the Warriors are headed back to the beach. And this trip, even if it’s become a fall routine, is particularly sweet for the young squad.