The Osbourn girls' basketball team has not won seven games in a season since 1998-99 and has gone 18-89 the past five years. So posting a 7-3 record in the Westfield summer league has the Eagles thinking that maybe, just maybe, they can become a factor in Virginia AAA basketball.
They have not finished with a winning record since joining that classification eight years ago.
"[This] was something that I anticipated," said second-year coach Lauren Milburn, a former Osbourn assistant who did not take over as head coach until less than two weeks before the start of practice last season. "I'm not sure I anticipated it as early as it happened. It was like watching a different group of kids. They had a different confidence and felt a lot more comfortable out on the court."
"We have a good feeling and have a good solid group of girls that can really play," senior guard Jessica Stepien said. "We're really excited. We keep calling [the summer] a season. We consider it kind of like a season."
Milburn knows there have been numerous summer success stories that have not translated into winter success stories. But for a team that went 1-20 last season -- with the average margin of loss by 31.1 points -- to scratch out seven wins in the lower of two divisions in the Westfield league perhaps says something about the Eagles' improved chances in the Cedar Run District. Osbourn lost to Broad Run in the Division II semifinals Monday night.
"We just need to . . . figure out what we learned from [the summer] and get ourselves in the gym and work," said Milburn, whose team also turned in a strong showing at the University of Richmond team camp last month. "The biggest thing is you can do all you want and be wonderful in the offseason, but you have to get it done when the season comes around. It all comes down to what you do in November."
Among the returning Eagles are junior guard Quynh Nguyen (team-high 6.2 points per game last year), senior guard Brittany Alexander-Smith, sophomore forward Kayla Cullen, sophomore forward Hope Williams and Stepien.
The team's lone win last season was against Stonewall Jackson.
A Boost for Battlefield
One of Osbourn's future Cedar Run rivals, new Haymarket school Battlefield, also fielded a team in the Westfield league. The Bobcats already boast one claim to fame -- a "win" over defending Virginia AAA state champion Forest Park.
Okay, it was by forfeit, because so many Bruins were involved with AAU teams and unable to play in that particular summer league game. But it's still something Battlefield Coach Eric McCaslin -- a former Forest Park assistant -- can razz his former players about when both teams attend camp at Old Dominion University next month.
Battlefield also was without some key AAU players at times and was overmatched in most games. Many of the Bobcats are freshmen from Bull Run and Marsteller middle schools, but McCaslin placed them in the lower of two varsity divisions instead of in the junior varsity bracket.
"I wanted them to at least see what they might be up against, where they're going to be younger, and some of the kids really aren't varsity kids yet," said McCaslin, who also took the Bobcats to team camp at Longwood University. "I wanted them to jump right in. . . . They were winning [in middle school], so they know they can. So despite all the losing, they've maintained a high self-esteem."
The Bobcats still have not played or practiced on their home floor because of vandalism that caused $73,000 in damage at Battlefield. Three teenage boys from Haymarket allegedly poured paint thinner on the basketball court, among other destruction. The team's open gyms have taken place at middle schools.
Post 364 Takes Step Backward
Woodbridge Post 364, which advanced to the District 16 tournament championship last season before losing to Winchester Post 21, has struggled to a 3-10 record so far this summer with about a week left before the league tournament in Front Royal.
Last year, Post 364 had college players who helped stabilize the pitching staff and batting order. The team has no college players this season; four players are high school sophomores.
The team has struggled offensively, spoiling some decent pitching performances and defensive efforts. Woodbridge turned three double plays Sunday in a 2-0 loss to the Stafford Post 290 Americans. Wayland Blair, one of the team's top hitters and the usual starting shortstop, tossed a four-hitter, but Woodbridge got no hits and was shut out by the Americans for the third time this summer.
"We just don't seem to have that hitting mentality to move the runners," Post 364 Coach Tony Tullo said. "We've hit a few home runs this year, but that sometimes has a negative effect on kids. They start making big-fly swings even when they shouldn't, when they're down in count or there's someone on second they need to advance."
Woodbridge also has been plagued by injuries to several players. In a recent tournament in Keyser, W.Va., a Post 364 batter was hit by a pitch and had to leave the game. Because Woodbridge had just nine players on hand, the injury ended the game, even though Post 364 was leading a Frederick, Md., team at the time.
Gildea Leads Raiders to Title
The 17th annual Tallgren Baseball Games, an eight-team wood bat tournament for adults, raised about $10,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society last weekend at Veterans Park, tournament organizer Bruce Fasick said.
That was the most, but not the only, inspirational occurrence at the event.
Bob Gildea, a pitcher for Gildea's Raiders from Delaware, threw six innings to bail out a depleted staff and help key his team to a 7-6 win in 12 innings in the tournament championship, beating a Prince William-based team, the Production Center Iron, which had blown out the Raiders, 12-0, earlier in the day.
Gildea, who is in his late forties, was named tournament MVP for his efforts.
"I sat behind the plate, and he had to be close to 80 [mph] on a couple pitches," Fasick said. "He inspired them to win."
Defending champion TPC Iron had tied the game in the ninth before losing in the championship for the sixth time in seven appearances. The Raiders, champion in the inaugural event in 1988, won the title for the third time.
TPC player Stan Bystrek was runner-up MVP. He went 9 for 16 with two homers and 10 RBI.