Stafford's undefeated start this season may come as a surprise to many, considering the Eagles finished last season just 11-10 and graduated their two leading scorers.
But while the varsity struggled to finish above .500 last year, the junior varsity rolled to a 19-1 record. This season, a number of those younger players made the jump to varsity and have brought their winning ways with them.
Megan Vrabel, one of Stafford's five first-year varsity players, hit a jump shot from the foul line at the buzzer last night as the Eagles improved to 7-0 with a 35-34 victory over visiting Albemarle (3-9).
With 7.6 seconds remaining and Albemarle leading 34-33, sophomore guard Becky Johnsen took an outlet pass after a missed Patriots free throw and headed downcourt. Johnsen passed the ball to junior point guard Angie Mathis at Albemarle's three-point line, and Mathis, who was quickly double-teamed, managed to sneak a pass to sophomore Vrabel, a 6-foot-1 center, who hit the winning shot.
"To be honest with you, it was just a blur. It just happened," said Vrabel, who leads the Indians in rebounding and, apparently, confidence. She sees no reason why the winning streak can't last all season: "Oh yeah, there's no doubt," she said. "Losing isn't an option."
Aside from Vrabel--who scored all five of her points in the second half--the first-year varsity members are Johnsen, junior forward Jean Cornwell, junior forward Ashley Roberson and sophomore guard Shanna Hylton.
Stafford has had a number of narrow victories this season, edging Sherando and Culpeper. And with two starters out with injuries, last night's game figured to be close.
Guard Hylton still has symptoms from a concussion she suffered in practice nearly three weeks ago. And senior center Meghan Wilson left Monday's practice complaining of chest pains and an accelerated heartbeat. No diagnosis has been made, and Wilson is scheduled to meet with a cardiologist today, Stafford Coach Rick Butler said.
Junior Cornwell, making her first career start, replaced Wilson in the starting lineup and made the most of the opportunity. She scored nine of the Indians' first 13 points and finished the first half with 16 points and eight rebounds.
"I just wanted to play well so I could stay in the game. I didn't want to come out," Cornwell said. "I didn't find out I was going to start until I got here, so I didn't have time to prepare."
Said Butler: Cornwell's "a kid who had to come in and play, and she really did a nice job. She's just another one of these kids that never says die. . . . Tonight was a gut-check time, and these kids have a lot of guts."