The softball season ended Friday night for Loudoun Valley in Salem, and the only consolation for the teary-eyed players was that it ended in a place where few thought they would be.
The Vikings lost 10 players from last year's Northwestern District regular season championship team, yet they advanced further than they did a year ago. Loudoun Valley went all the way to the Group AA semifinals, where they lost to Rustburg, 1-0, at Moyer Sports Complex.
"I don't think anybody didn't give us much of a chance this year," Loudoun Valley Coach Joe Spicer said. "I told our two captains [seniors Jennifer Potts and Heather Todd] that we were going to be better than a lot of teams suspected. Our kids worked real hard, they had a lot of success, and they have nothing to be ashamed of."
The Vikings won their second consecutive district regular season title, going undefeated in the process. They also won their second Region II title in three years, beating Turner Ashby.
"We came a long way this year," senior outfielder Rebecca Toone said. "We showed what we can really do by going this far. People are teary-eyed tonight because it's the last game."
Loudoun Valley (18-5) was making its second state tournament appearance in the past three years. In 1997, the Vikings advanced to the championship before losing to Rustburg, 2-0, in 10 innings. Potts pitched a complete game in the loss.
On Friday, Loudoun Valley struggled with its hitting, something that hadn't bothered the Vikings in their previous games. Potts was strong, as she has been throughout the playoffs, giving up seven hits and striking out four.
Potts "stepped it up a lot [in the postseason]. She carried us with her pitching," said Todd, who had one of the Vikings' four hits. "We knew we were going to win with her on the mound, and we felt that way tonight. The hardest thing about tonight is that this team was so close; everyone was friends."
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Loudoun Valley (18-5) 000 000 0 -- 0 5 1 Rustburg (24-2) 001 000 X -- 1 7 0 Torrence and Akers; Potts and Dulin.
CAPTION: Loudoun Valley's Kim Virts, above, makes the tag as Rustburg runner slides into bag during Group AA semifinals Friday. At left, catcher Jessica Dulin stops another Devils player. "We came a long way this year," Vikings outfielder Rebecca Toone said of the season.