It was clear that La Plata's softball team had a tough time reconciling the end of its season after a 2-0 loss to Severna Park on Thursday in the Maryland 3A South Region final.
As the Warriors broke from their postgame huddle, some cried because they felt they did not give their best effort, while others grinned with contentment about overcoming their biggest obstacle and being the final Southern Maryland Athletic Conference team to be playing this season.
La Plata (18-5) spent all season aiming for Calvert, a team it could not score against, let alone defeat for the past two years when the core players on both teams met four times.
The Warriors admitted how emotionally drained they were after defeating the Cavaliers, 1-0, in Wednesday's regional semifinal. Calvert so consumed La Plata all season, Warriors junior pitcher Carrie Higdon even hesitated when asked what would be better, a victory over Calvert or a state title without defeating Calvert.
"I don't know," Higdon said. "It was really nice to beat Calvert. Yeah, I guess the state championship would have been nice."
After the Calvert game, it would have been difficult for La Plata or any team to muster the same energy and motivation less than 24 hours later, especially against an unfamiliar opponent.
Defeating Calvert "was something we've been trying to do for a really long time," La Plata senior catcher Maris Smith said. "Once we had gotten to that point, we didn't know what to do from there."
And that was why the Warriors' emotions were mixed after the Severna Park game. To some, the Calvert win made their season. Anything that followed was simply a bonus.
But to others, this season was similar to last year, when La Plata struggled to score against SMAC champion McDonough. The Warriors were shut out twice by the Rams during the regular season but were able to squeeze out a 2-1 victory in the region semifinals. They lost to Calvert in the region final.
"It pretty much was the same thing," Higdon said.
Sudden End for Calvert
Calvert, meantime, was not ready to have its season end earlier than it did last season, when the Cavaliers advanced to the 3A championship game. Even though Coach Frank Moore constantly reminded his players how fleeting a good season can be in a single-elimination playoff, many of them could not grasp how such a dominant run could end so suddenly.
"We knew that was a possibility," Moore said, "but you can't tell when that's going to happen."
The Cavaliers (20-2), the most proficient hitting team in the SMAC during the regular season, mustered only one hit against Higdon in their loss to La Plata in the 3A South semifinals.
"This time of the year, it can be a long season or short one," Moore said. "We just didn't hit."
Moore and his players said all season how focused they were on getting back to the state title game, which they lost to Severna Park last year. To have their season end three games before that was particularly jarring.
"That was our goal all year," Moore said. "We wanted to finish up the business that we didn't do last year. . . . I've been through it. I know how difficult it is to repeat. You've got to be good, but you've got to have some luck."