Ashburn, VA (June 23, 2021) - A spectacular "Junetember" evening greeted the Western Albemarle Warriors as they arrived at Independence High School for the state championship match against the Tigers. The home team reached this pinnacle in their second year and their first season with senior players, while the Warriors had won the state title the last three times a champion had been crowned (2017, 2018, 2019).

Chas Sumser Photography was there to capture the action and emotion and posted a gallery of images from the game.

Big soccer games like this one usually start off with both teams working the ball around and generally getting a feel for the pitch and the opponent, but this one had a different twist. Just four minutes into the match, almost before fans could get their seats, the score was 2-0 in favor of Independence.

In the 2nd minute, Kaitlin Nimmer chipped a ball from the right wing that seemed harmless, but somehow managed to slip into the Western goal. And in the 4th minute the opportunistic Reagan Wise punched in an easy goal after Western keeper Liora Shin made an excellent save, but couldn't control the rebound. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, it was 2-0.

Not long after that second goal, Independence had another excellent opportunity, but Shin rose to the challenge and stopped what could have been a devastating third tally. And that's when the flow of the game started to shift.

Gradually, the Warriors established their composure and began to take control of the match. For the next few minutes the run of play moved from their defensive third, to midfield, and finally into the attack.

In the 17th minute, Western scored a goal that was very similar to the one Wise scored for the Tigers. After a great initial stop, Independence keeper Reiley Fitzpatrick could not control the rebound and it fell to the foot of Western's Phebe Ryan, who calmly netted the follow up shot, halving the deficit to 2-1. 

That goal ignited the Warrior attack and from that point on most of the first half was played in the Independence end. In the 23rd minute, Gabrielle Andres got behind the Indy defense and struck a well placed shot past the diving Fitzpatrick and into the lower left corner to tie the score. Two minutes later, Western was awarded a direct kick from just above the penalty arc and Cordelia O'Connell perfectly placed her shot top shelf right to give her team the lead at halftime, 3-2.

After the break, the pressure was on Independence to take more risk to try to even the score. With the Warriors sagging on defense to protect their lead, this meant that the Tigers had to push more players forward potentially exposing their goal. Smartly, Fitzpatrick  moved well out of her goal so that she could act as a second sweeper sometimes coming out as high as the 35 yard line. But even so, Andres was able to use her speed to repeatedly push Western deep into the Tiger defensive third forcing Independence to start over again and again.

As the half wore on, Western's defense continued to stiffen. Most of the time, all they needed to do was change fields or clear the ball to force Independence to regain control and restart their attack, eventually wearing down the Tiger frontrunners. To their credit, the Indy efforts resulted in several corner and free kicks, but all were ably handled by Western's freshman keeper, Elana Romesburg, who had been inserted to start the second half.

Time ticked away, and as it began to run out neither team would score again converting the offensive show of the first half into a defensive standoff in the second. The Independence faithful realized that their hopes for a championship would not be realized, and the Western side began to celebrate their state championship.

Final Score: Western Albemarle 3 - Independence 2 

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