The word "states" had been banned from the vocabulary of the Loudoun Valley softball team until Wednesday, when the Vikings wrapped up their second Group AA tournament berth. It's a good thing that ban was lifted, because after Friday's 7-4, eight-inning victory over Turner Ashby in the Region II final, the state tournament was the only topic of conversation among players.
Loudoun Valley (17-4) will host the loser of the Region I final between Louisa and defending Group AA champion Orange in a state quarterfinal on Tuesday. The Vikings qualified for the state tournament with a 7-0 victory over Stuarts Draft on Wednesday; it is the second time in three years Loudoun Valley has advanced to the state tournament.
"Before we even got to regionals, we were told that we couldn't talk about states, because it was such a big thing," said senior Erynn Lepley, who was on the junior varsity when Loudoun Valley went to states in 1997. Seniors Heather Todd and Jennifer Potts, who played in the state tournament, "told us just to go with it, have fun and don't stress out. . . . But if we said the word `states,' we had to run a lap."
The Vikings are heading into the state tournament with a great deal of confidence, thanks to Friday's win over Turner Ashby (21-2), the defending Group AA runner-up. Loudoun Valley had lost to the Black Knights twice this season, and in one of those games the Vikings didn't record a hit.
"Turner Ashby has always been kind of an unbeatable team to us," Lepley said. Last year, the Black Knights beat Loudoun Valley, 4-0, in the regional semifinals, ending the Vikings' season. "Now that we beat them, we feel like we can beat anybody."
On Friday, Loudoun Valley had 14 hits. The bottom of the Vikings' lineup was especially productive: Lepley, the eighth batter, was 3 for 3 with two runs, and senior Rebecca Toone, the ninth batter, was 2 for 4 with two runs. Potts, the leadoff batter, was 3 for 5 with two RBI, and freshman designated hitter Katie Lemmert was 2 for 3 with two RBI.
"Toone has really hit her stride in the second half of the season, but Lepley had been in kind of a slump," Loudoun Valley Coach Joe Spicer said. "Erynn is the kind of kid who, since the day she walked into school, has been a worker. She's worked hard to get out of her slump."
Potts, who pitched no-hitters in the Vikings' regional quarterfinal and semifinal wins, was strong Friday, giving up only four hits while striking out five. The Loudoun Valley defense committed six errors, which led to all four runs.
In the top of the eighth inning, with the game tied at 4, Loudoun Valley put together four hits to score three runs. Potts then retired all three batters she faced in the bottom of the eighth to end the game.
Loudoun Valley (17-4) 001 120 03 -- 7 14 6
Turner Ashby (21-2) 100 102 00 -- 4 4 1
Potts and Dulin; Fox and Bowman.
CAPTION: Loudoun Valley hoists its Region II trophy after defeating the "unbeatable" Turner Ashby, 7-4, in eight innings Friday night. The Vikings will play in the state quarterfinals Tuesday.