From time to time, to remind her team of how far it had come in four years, Liberty field hockey coach Stacey Irvin would pull out the statistics from Liberty's winless 1999 season: 51 goals allowed, one goal scored.
While still stinging from the disappointment of losing in the semifinals of the Virginia AA/A tournament, Liberty's seniors were able to take solace in the great forward movement the program had made in four short years.
"It never occurred to me that we could do so well," senior Erica Muschamp said. "It's awesome to see how much progress we've made here. [Irvin] showed us those stats to see how much we've done in four years, but I think it just shows how much she's done in four years."
The Eagles' most successful season ended with a 3-1 loss to Grafton in a semifinal game Friday at Tabb High in Yorktown, Va. Kristen Morias scored, and the teams went into halftime tied at 1, but Grafton scored two quick goals in the second half to put away the Eagles.
Although Liberty has ascended to the state's elite in the past few seasons, Fauquier remains entrenched. The Falcons have become fixtures in the state tournament, which was an invitational that existed before the Virginia High School League sanctioned field hockey among the Virginia AA and A schools in 2001.
But Fauquier's perfect season was ended by another familiar foe -- Chancellor, which scored with three minutes left in overtime to win, 2-1. Fauquier was the Jefferson District champion and hadn't lost a game since November 2001 -- when Chancellor beat the Falcons in the semifinals. Grafton beat Chancellor, 4-1, in Saturday's championship game.
"What happened Friday was a springboard for next year," said Fauquier Coach Linda Lee, who will have nine players back, including 18-goal scorer Kara Davis.
Meantime, Liberty ended with a 10-6-1 record, a second-place finish in the AA Jefferson District and its first trip to the state playoffs.
Still, losing was not easy for the Eagles, in particular the seniors who had come so far.
"You don't get that far just to go there," said Muschamp, who finished her senior year with 12 goals and 12 assists. "We were really disappointed. I think it was a shock -- all of a sudden the season is over."
Said Irvin: "I was disappointed for them, but not disappointed in them. What they've accomplished is really amazing. For the seniors, I was sad that their careers had to end."
The Eagles will return next season with a lot of the same firepower. Five seniors will be gone, but this year's team had 12 juniors, including second-leading scorer Sadie Wintersteen, who had eight goals this season.
"We're going to miss the seniors, but we've got a lot of good players who are going to be back next year, and our junior varsity team is pretty good, too," Irvin said. "Definitely, getting to [the state tournament] has been what we're shooting for. Next year, we will try to take it to the next level."