Before Notre Dame Academy's quarterfinal game at Fredericksburg Academy on Tuesday afternoon in the Virginia Independent School's Division II state playoffs, senior midfielder Liz Ritonia had a personal message for her teammates.
"I told them that I was a senior, and I didn't want this to be my last game. So I told them not to win for themselves but to win for me," Ritonia said laughing. "We're all friends on the team, so everyone said, 'Of course we'll win for you.' "
The Lady Dragons didn't let Ritonia down. Despite being seeded sixth in the tournament, Notre Dame upset third-seeded Fredericksburg, 1-0, on a first-half goal by junior forward Ariana Tewksbury.
Although Notre Dame's season ended Friday afternoon with a 2-1 overtime loss in the state semifinals to defending state champion Carlisle of Martinsville, the Lady Dragons (13-2-1) accomplished much this season. Last year, the team at times fielded fewer than 11 players, finishing 1-11. This season, Notre Dame, led by Ritonia and classmates Liz McFadden and Kat Thomas, went undefeated in the Melville Church Athletic Conference, winning the league title. Friday, it took an overtime goal by Carlisle's Wake Forest-bound senior Hilary Moore to push the Lady Chiefs ahead.
"After the game, the opposing coach said she had never seen a team that had worked so well together," Notre Dame Coach Ken Humphreys said. "That was the biggest compliment we could have received."
Ritonia, whose sister Emily scored the Lady Dragons' lone goal against Carlisle, was disappointed with the result but pleased by her team's effort.
"I thanked everyone for making my senior year the most memorable year of field hockey that I've ever had," she said.
Foxes Turn Corner
Foxcroft School Coach Katie Kantz presided over significant accomplishments this season: the school's first victory over Georgetown Visitation, a second-place finish -- the school's highest ever -- in the competitive Independent Schools League and a trip to the Division I VIS playoffs.
So even though the postseason wasn't kind to the Foxes -- Foxcroft lost in the first round of the ISL and VIS tournaments -- Kantz sees this year as a stepping stone to creating a winning field hockey tradition in Middleburg.
"The confidence that we have taken away from this season is amazing," said Kantz, a second-year coach. "I think it's a turning point for my career here. We're going to try to meet this standard every time and do better. People are looking at us differently than they used to, as well. It's an exciting time."
Next season, Foxcroft will return its leading scorer, junior Joanna French, who missed the team's final three games because of illness. Foxcroft will graduate six seniors, including captains Jessi Coil and Julie Hoppmann. The Foxes finished with a 10-4-1 record, with seven shutouts.