Albemarle Wraps Up Division Title

Albemarle wraps up division title

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It's not clear how long the designation will stick around, but Albemarle can at least lay claim to one West Central Division title after a 10-4 victory over Charlottesville that wrapped up the division's regular season title for the Patriots.

Albemarle sophomores Matt Crist and Kevin Bernardino both notched hat tricks with Bernardino also dishing out a pair of assists in what amounted to his coming out party. Bernardino, a midfielder, put together several big-time players including hauling in a high rebound in the second half and burying a goal. That came after a slick move from the right side in the first half where Bernardino got up under his defender just past the goal line extended, turned the corner and hit a tough left-handed shot from close range.

Albemarle's Jake Huber (1) makes a key stop for Albemarle on a William Stevens attempt from close range.

“Kevin played amazing because in the Monticello game (last week) he pulled a muscle in his back and he’s been struggling through that,” said Albemarle senior Stephen Mastropaolo. “But he’s stepping up. He’s growing up.”

Along with Ben Kyriacopoulos’s hat trick, that was all the offensive firepower Albemarle needed. Bernardino’s emergence helped offset an injury to senior John Chandler who is, at least for now, out of the lineup.

“He’s not the biggest guy but he’s the guy you want to cheer for because he’s scrappy, he hustles and he’s got a good knack for rolling off defenders and sticking the ball,” said Albemarle coach Dave King. “It was good to see him put some in.”

Mastropaolo, a 6-foot-4 attackman who doubles as a lineman during football season, finished the game off for Albemarle as a one-man clock-killer. Mastropaolo nearly single-handedly melted a few minutes off the clock, moving methodically behind the goal as Charlottesville tried to force a turnover and get back into the contest and inflicted a lot of punishment in the process.

“One of the few things I think I’m better at is protecting the ball because I’m so wide,” Mastropaolo said. “I was just trying to keep the ball away from (Charlottesville defenders Liam McCarthy) and Sam Runkle.”

Albemarle’s defense played well throughout, with keeper Jake Huber needing just five saves to hold the Black Knights to four goals. The Patriots also managed to overcome facing a slew of man down and double man down situations with 10 penalties called against Albemarle.

The Patriots pulled away in the second half after Charlottesville closed the gap to 5-4 on back-to-back Jack McCarthy goals in the second half. McCarthy finished with a hat trick on the night, but Charlottesville couldn’t get anyone else into a rhythm offensively as the Patriots’ mixed in some zone defense that gave the Black Knights some problems. Still, the fact that Charlottesville had a shot at tying Albemarle for first place in the division was a huge step in the right direction for a program that is clearly on the rise.

“We’ve come a long way and we need to understand where we were and where we are now and sometimes with quick progress comes bumps in the road,” said Charlottesville coach Drew Craft who’s program has Western left on the schedule Saturday but currently has a firm grasp onsecond place in the West Central Division and the No. 2 seed in next week’s tournament. “We need to learn how to win against the elite teams in the state.”

Albemarle got a lift from coach Greg Crow’s presence. The Patriots’ head coach who underwent back surgery eight days ago came out for senior night for a group of players he’s led through a number of different levels for a number of years. Crow had to leave at the half as he continues to recover.

“It was great to see Greg, we’re glad to see him out here,” King said. “Hopefully he’ll keep getting stronger and we’ll see him out here for the playoffs.”

Albemarle will head to Lynchburg Saturday for a postseason tune-up against E.C. Glass while the Black Knights battle the Warriors at 11:30 a.m.

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