Back on May 24, the Albemarle boys soccer team opened the Northwest Region tournament with a 2-0 win at home over Woodbridge.
That game started an unlikely run that the Patriots hope to continue on Tuesday, when they host Grassfield at 6 p.m. in the AAA state quarterfinals.
"I think once we one the first regional tournament game against Woodbridge, I think the kids gained some confidence and some belief," coach Scott Jackson said at practice on Monday. "They kind of had a look in their eyes like, 'maybe we can do this.'"
"We've come a long way," said junior defender Matt Sheffield. "I mean, Albemarle hasn't had a team reach this level in like 10 years. And to be on the team and reach this level of competition has just been exciting. It's been great, and we've just been feeding off the adrenaline, game in and game out."
"At the beginning of the season we said we definitely wanted to make regionals. So now that we're into states, it's a little bit of a surprise," admitted junior midfielder Luc Fatton. "But we have a really talented group this year. So we were kind of expecting it, but a lot of things had to go right for it to happen."
The Patriots followed the win over Woodbridge by shutting out Patrick Henry on the road in the regional quarterfinals. Two days later, they blanked perennial power Osbourn Park to clinch a spot in this week's state tournament.
That set up a rematch with Colonial Forge -- a team that had already beaten Albemarle three times this season -- in last Thursday's Northwest Region title game. After falling behind 2-0 at the half, the Patriots rallied for a 3-2 win, giving them a home game in the state quarterfinals.
"It's just a reward," said Jackson. "I mean, we had three brutal road games, and they came out on top in all three. So I think they've earned it. They get to play in front of their peers, which they're really excited about."
"It's going to be crazy," said sophomore goalkeeper Matt Natale. "We have a lot of fans coming. Everyone's supporting us. Being at home, on our home turf, is going to be perfect for us."
"We're really excited," said Sheffield. "We have so many people coming out to the game, that we know of. And we're just going to feed off of that adrenaline. We're definitely going to be ready."