Charlotte Davis found a rare opportunity to showcase her complete array of superb skills Saturday as Brentsville's goalkeeper.
And that meant trouble for her Tigers during their championship game of the Class 3A state girls soccer tournament at Roanoke College.
Davis can usually lurk in the expansive shadow of Brentsville's robust defense, but an elite Western Albemarle offense broke through it often in the state final. That gave Davis plenty of opportunities to shine, but it also gave the Warriors a pair of goals for a 2-0 victory over the Tigers.
“This is the best [3A] team we've played,” Brentsville coach Sonny Barrickman said. “They put a lot of pressure on us, and we've got a hell of a defense. For them to do as well as they did against us, that's pretty impressive.”
Entering the state final, the Tigers (18-4-2) had allowed only one goal during their seven postseason games. They also had 17 shutouts total this spring spring with opponents scoring only nine goals over 23 games. Yet Western Albemarle (22-2) amassed 25 shots Saturday night and many more legitimate scoring chances.
Davis responded with eight saves and innumerable stops on through balls and crosses as she aggressively charged out of the goal box like a linebacker to foil the Warriors' opportunities in seemingly every area of the field.
“You'll be hard pressed to find somebody in 3A or 4A that will tell you she's not the best goalkeeper in the state,” Barrickman said. “She is just phenomenal. … We made some mistakes and she kept us in the game.”
Until Elizabeth Fabiano beat Davis by a split-second to a through ball near the top of the 18-yard box with 25 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the second half. She struck it past the sliding Brentsville keeper for the winning goal, assisted by Savannah Wilson with a build-up from Nichole Heon.
“It's sad to lose this, but I'm glad we at least made it here to the finals,” Tigers senior outside back Megan Garman said. “A fun season.”
Her coach agreed.
“As hard as it is to lose your seniors, and this be your last game, you really can't hang your head losing to a team like that,” said Barrickman, who had nine players graduate Saturday morning in Nokesville prior to a three and a half hour drive to Salem, including starters Jillian Wright, Olivia Simmons and Bryn Damico.
The Tigers made a rare state final appearance after winning the Conference 28 regular season and tournament championships as well as the 3A East Region title. Then, in the state semifinals, they defeated the three-time defending state champion Blacksburg Bruins, 1-0.
“You'd be hard pressed to find 10 people who'd think we'd beat Blacksburg,” Barrickman said. “I'm pretty sure Vegas had high odds.”
Blacksburg entered the state tournament with an amazing 80-2-2 record since early in the 2014 season, but that included a 3-1 loss to Western Albemarle in the 3A West Region championship game. The Warriors also won the Conference 29 regular season and tournament championships, and they overall outscored opponents by an average of five goals per game.
“We aren't up to that level yet, but hopefully in future years we'll be able to compete with them,” said Davis, a junior whose Tigers also qualified for state in 2015. “Our program is getting better and better every year.
“It's been a great season,” she said. “Hopefully next year we can get some new freshmen in and start over and work our way back up again.”
The Tigers held Western scoreless in the first half with Davis making six saves to help weather 14 shots. In the first 11 minutes alone, the Warriors had six great scoring opportunities, but Davis made three saves and slid to cover a through ball.
“She was incredible,” Western coach Jacob Desch said. “We put them under pressure, and she was always right there.”
Davis smothered at least eight through balls near the edges of the 18-yard box by confidently sprinting out of the goal behind the high line of Brentsville's defense, which also forced seven offside calls on Western.
“We told the girls, 'Don't play down the middle with those through balls,'” Desch said. “You had to play wide and play patient to try and beat that trap. But every time we did, she was right there on us.”
Even when they played through balls up the sideline. With 90 seconds remaining in the first half, for example, Davis ran nearly 35 yards from the goal to the right sideline, where she kicked the ball out of bounds before a Western forward could reach it.
“The earlier you come out, the better chance you have that your defenders can sweep in behind you and save it,” Davis said. “I'm another defender, really. Not just a goalkeeper.
“A lot of it is reading into the play,” she said. “Sometimes I can see what is happening right before it happens.”
Davis also snatched at least three dangerous crosses by the Warriors.
“In order to be a good keeper, you have to be able to stop shots,” Barrickman said. “We all know that, but you also have to be able to read the game.”
“We don't give her as much credit as she deserves,” Garman said.
The Warriors scored their second goal against her with 15:57 remaining in the second half. Erin Meier gave Davis little chance to make a save by making a run up the left sideline, turning in and quickly launching a hard shot from about 21 yards out into the top of the net.
Only a freshman, Western coaches recently converted Meier from back to forward.
“Because she's so quick,” Desch said. “We're trying to build her confidence up to take people one-on-one.
“It was great to see her take that shot,” he said. “A month ago, she would not have. … It was fun to see.”
Not that the Warriors need another offensive weapon with the likes of Fabiano, Katrine Berg and Abigail Zimmerman already playing up top.
“We're blessed with some technically gifted players, but [also] some excellent athletes, and players that are willing to just listen and learn,” Desch said. “We've showed them different options for how to get behind tough defenses like Brentsville. And even though they made it difficult, we were able to finally crack them.”