Windows of minivans and SUVs colored with temporary spray paint representing softball teams from Brooklyn, N.Y., Connecticut and Loudoun County filled parking lots at the week-long PONY National Tournament in Sterling, Reston and Ashburn.
Although Julia Groves no longer marks her car, she regularly travels to see her daughter, Sarah, practice and compete year-round for the 14-and-under Sterling-based Fire & Ice, one of 143 teams competing in this year's tournament.
"A lot of teams travel hundreds of miles to get here. It's insane, but we make the trips," Julia Groves said.
Games took place in five complexes around the area. The tournament included top 14-and-under teams from Loudon County.
"It's just interesting to watch some girls on this team playing against girls they're going to high school with," Groves said.
Last year, Fire & Ice won the national tournament in 12-and-under. This year the team moved to 14-and-under. Sarah Groves (Park View), Rochelle Latka (Loudoun County), Michelle Mocabee (Stone Bridge) and Holly Norris (Loudoun County) are among the players on Fire & Ice's roster who will attend local high schools in the fall.
After Fire & Ice's 2-1 victory over the Connecticut Charmers on Wednesday at the Potomac Lakes Sportsplex, a grounds machine rumbled on an adjacent infield. The machine was preparing the diamond for a game involving the Baseliners, also from Sterling.
"This is the biggest [tournament] by far -- this and ASA [Amateur Softball Association] Nationals," said Baseliners Coach John Fedrigo.
At the same time the Baseliners played at Potomac Lakes, the Ashburn Shooting Stars White, a team favored to reach the final, played at Claude Moore Park.
When the bleachers cleared after Ashburn beat the New Jersey Lady Wildcats, 2-0, Kaitlin Tiplady, a sophomore at Broad Run, was sitting next to Lauren Wolz, a sophomore at Stone Bridge. They were waiting on teammates to get ready to go out for dinner, a regular celebration after victories.
"It's the girls. The stuff we do off the field is fun. We go out after tournaments. We do hair appointments and other things," Wolz said.
For many girls, since they practice, compete and travel together, playing on the team also has become a social function. Winning, however, remains paramount.
"This is what we've been working for all year," Tiplady said.
Sterling Baseliners outfielder Stephanie Fedrigo fields a hit.