As the four teams gathered at the Foxcroft School tennis courts Saturday, the Notre Dame Academy Dragons were playing for more than just the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament title.
"We knew this was a chance for us to become a dynasty," Dragons Coach J.D. Almond said. "We're a small school out in Middleburg, and we knew if we wanted tennis notoriety, this is the only way to do it."
And Saturday, the top-seeded Dragons got it done--claiming their third straight conference title with a commanding, 5-2 win over second-seeded Randolph Macon to finish the season 13-1 and 38-2 over the past three years.
"This is what we have worked for; this is what keeps our team going when the season got tough," said the team's No. 1 singles player, senior Jessica Turbitt, who wants to play collegiately at William and Mary. "What we did isn't easy, being able to keep winning even when you have three tests in school the next day."
But the Dragons found a way to win all season, and Saturday was no different.
In singles play, Turbitt won at No. 1, 8-6, and sophomore Kristen Rittenour breezed to an 8-1 win at No. 2; sophomore Claire Kettering and junior Kara Pinciaro each posted 8-4 wins at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. In doubles, junior Meg Galvin and Kettering teamed to win at No. 2, 8-2, proving the Dragons' success this season wasn't achieved by one player.
"We're lucky to have so many good players," Almond said. "That's a big reason why we've done so well. We don't have to count on one person to win every match."
Turbitt finished the year 11-2, which gives her a school record for most singles wins in a career at 37-9. Rittenour and Kettering were just as dominating this season, as each went 13-1.
"And to think, when this season began I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to win it again," Almond said. "But I guess that makes it sweeter because I didn't expect to win it three years in a row. That's a lot to expect from a team."
As Almond and the Dragons savor their title for the third consecutive year, the Wakefield School also has reason to celebrate.
The Fighting Owls, despite starting two eighth-graders, came in as the lone team to beat Notre Dame this season. The Wakefield School, which finished the season 12-2, topped the Dragons, 4-3, earlier this season before Notre Dame knocked off the Fighting Owls, 5-2, toward the end of the regular season. Though both teams finished the year with one loss, the Dragons were awarded the regular season title because they won more points in their two meetings against the Owls, 8-6.
"I couldn't have been more pleased with the way we played this year," said Wakefield School head coach Joan Moore, whose Fighting Owls placed fourth after losing to Fredericksburg, 5-2, in the third-place match. "We learned a tremendous deal this year, and with a young team, we are going to keep getting better."
Against fifth-seeded Fredericksburg, junior Alexis Day was the team's lone singles winner, taking No. 1 court, 8-0. In No. 1 doubles play, Day teamed with eighth-grader Aleta Sprague to win, 8-0.
"We had a remarkable year considering how young of a team we had," said Day, who went 11-3 in singles play this year. "And we are only losing two seniors, so I can't wait for next season. I'm ready to start practicing right now."
CAPTION: Notre Dame's No. 1 player Jessica Turbitt, above, is big reason school had 13-1 record, with team's only loss coming from Wakefield School. Fighting Owls, with help from Alexis Day, right, were fourth in Saturday's DAC tournament.