The Salem High girls will be playing for the Class 4 state lacrosse championship for the first time Saturday, and the Spartans will be playing on their home field. Salem will take on defending state champion Riverside High of Leesburg Saturday at 10 am at Spartan Field.
The Spartans earned the chance to play for the state championship with an 11-7 win at Monticello Tuesday in the state semifinal. The championship site was predetermined, and it just happened to be on Salem’s home field.
“I thought they might move it to Roanoke College if we were in it, but Mr. (Carey) Harveycutter said they have soccer there all day,” said Salem coach Maggi Pace after Tuesday’s win. “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we’ll be playing for the state championship on our home field.”
Riverside was the state Class 4 champion last year, and Rams coach Kristan Ash was on hand to scout the Salem team in the state quarterfinal at Salem High last Friday. She had to be impressed, as Salem shut out visiting Hanover, 21-0. However, Hanover looked to be overmatched against the Spartans, which is unusual at that point of the season.
“I’m not sure how things played out in Charlottesville,” said Pace. “Monticello and Western Albemarle are the best two teams in that region, but somehow had to play each other during semis. I assume because of overall record, but Western played harder teams. It was great, though, because everyone played and that doesn’t normally happen this late in the season.”
Lilly Blair and Madi Caldwell had six goals each against Hanover, along with two assists by Lilly and five by Madi. Alla Daniel had four goals and an assist. Amber Wright and Hope Wimmer each had two goals and one assist. Emma Painter had four interceptions and the team had 21 caused turnovers, three a piece for Maggie Crute, Makenzie Redding, Painter and Caldwell. Maddie Bowman had seven saves.
That win sent the Spartans to Monticello on Tuesday. Salem had a better than the Mustangs and beat them during the regular season, but the semifinal sites were predetermined so Monticello got to the host.
The Spartans never trailed Tuesday. They led 7-4 at the half and Bowman’s solid play in goal kept the Mustangs at bay down the stretch.
“Time of possession was in their favor, but we played well on defense,” said Pace.
Blair and Libby Bowman had three goals and an assist each. Wimmer had two goals and Daniel, Wright and Kayla Lainez had one each. Kara Yates and Caldwell each had an assist.
The win improved Salem’s record to 19-1. Their only loss was to Hidden Valley, and that was avenged on two different occasions down the stretch. Riverside will most likely be the best team Salem will play all season.
“They’re tall and athletic and they’re a high speed team,” said Pace. “But we’re ready. We’ve made it to the semifinal a few times but this is our first time in the final, and I feel this is the most ready we’ve ever been.”