The first hurdle was crossed in a seemingly nondescript regular season match April 27. The next came May 14, followed by another this past Wednesday.

The Loudoun Valley girls' tennis team defeated its old nemesis, Loudoun County, in the three aforementioned matches. The matches had other significance. The first forced a tie in the Dulles District standings, the second gave the Vikings an automatic berth in the Region II tournament (May 14). The final hurdle was cleared with a 5-3 victory over the Raiders on Wednesday and gave Loudoun Valley the district team title.

"It was really gratifying, especially considering the history between Loudoun County and Loudoun Valley," Vikings Coach Matt Bolen said. "Loudoun Valley had come up on the short end of things so many times. It's really great for the school, the program and the girls to get past that."

Loudoun Valley (18-1) has not lost since late March -- a 5-4 setback against Loudoun County -- and will enter the Region II tournament this week as one of the top seeds. But all of the Vikings' recent success, according to Bolen, can be traced to the April 27 match, a 5-4 Loudoun Valley victory.

"The second time we played, a lot of our players played with a lot more confidence," Bolen said. "Their execution was a lot better, and we ended up winning. That was the match that said to us, 'Hey, we can do this.' . . . But every match we play with County is close, and every time we win, it does build confidence."

Buoyed by their sudden mastery of Loudoun County, the defending Virginia AA champion, the Vikings will open play in the Region II tournament against Handley. The Judges have knocked Loudoun Valley out in the region semifinals the past two years.

"They're really looking forward to it," Bolen said.

Reversal of Fortune

Anthony Rinaldis has been part of a Dulles District title-winning doubles tandem and was a key member of Potomac Falls's state championship team two years ago. Until Friday, however, he had not claimed an individual prize.

But with a 6-1, 6-7 (7-4), 6-2 victory over Loudoun Valley junior Matt Vaughn, Rinaldis won the Dulles District singles crown. He was the Panthers' No. 2 player in 2002 -- only the four top No. 1 players from the district qualify for the tournament -- and missed the majority of last season with mononucleosis.

"This has been big," Rinaldis said. "This was my last year, and I was glad to be able to do something with my high school team."

The Panthers had finished second to Stone Bridge during the regular season, but Rinaldis's title was one of three won by Potomac Falls this past week. John Mook and Jimmy Vaeth won their second straight doubles title Friday, one day after the Panthers reversed two earlier losses to Stone Bridge with a 5-4 victory Thursday in the team final.

Against Stone Bridge, Vaeth had been down 4-3, 30-love but won three games in a row to close out his match at No. 3 singles -- one of four singles wins for Potomac Falls. Vaeth and Mook also outlasted Kyle Duffy and Alex Moran in three sets at No. 1 doubles to give the Panthers the victory and a boost heading into this week's Region II tournament.

"At least we know we can win it," Potomac Falls Coach Rick Johnson said. The win over Stone Bridge "gets rid of a lot of self-doubt."

Undefeated Eagles Move On

An impressive showing in singles paved the way for the third victory of the season by the Liberty girls' tennis team over Handley and propelled the unbeaten Eagles to the Northwestern District tournament title.

Jessica Mills, Christin Nirich, Alison Antonowics and Alison Mills swept their opponents in straight sets in the team final Monday, giving Liberty (16-0) a favorable 4-2 lead heading into the doubles matches. The Eagles went on to a 5-3 victory.

Liberty had already clinched a berth in the Region II tournament and will host Loudoun County in a quarterfinal Tuesday.

"We've had a great season, and we want to go out and play our best," Liberty Coach Ellen Allen said. . . .

After three victories in their head-to-head matches this season, Fauquier senior Eddie Glidewell was upended by Handley's Brad Stillwagon in the singles final of the Northwestern District tournament.

Glidewell had defeated Stillwagon in three team matches this spring, including Monday in the Falcons' 5-1 loss to Handley in the district team final. But Stillwagon came away with a 6-1, 6-4 victory Wednesday. Both players will advance to the Region II individual tournament, which begins June 1.

Tessa Carrington has helped Loudoun Valley to an 18-1 record and three victories over Loudoun County this season. "It was really gratifying, especially considering the history between Loudoun County and Loudoun Valley," Vikings Coach Matt Bolen said.