Park View 3,

Loudoun Valley 2

Park View's postgame celebration yesterday in Sterling was perhaps a bit over-the-top for a regular season softball game, particularly one that had virtually no bearing on the Virginia AA Dulles District standings. But there is so much more to No. 9 Park View's history with No. 1 Loudoun Valley than can be explained by standings alone.

With several integral members of the Patriots' past cheering from the stands -- former coach Beth Walker, the second-winningest coach in Virginia high school history, and 2003 All-Met Player of the Year Karie Morrison -- this year's team added its own chapter with an impressive 3-2 victory over the previously unbeaten Vikings.

"It's awesome," senior shortstop Sheryl Wilson said. "I think this is the hardest we've ever played."

Loudoun Valley (18-1, 12-1) had the tying run on third base with two outs in the seventh inning, but Park View sophomore Brittany Gardner lured the game's final batter into hitting a high popup. Gardner (eight hits, eight strikeouts, two walks) turned in the pitching circle and started to jump even before Wilson safely made the final grab, and then leaped into Wilson's outstretched arms as the rest of the team joined the huddle.

"You could tell from the way the girls responded to the win just how much this one meant to them," said first-year coach Stephanie Walley, a former assistant of Walker's whose Patriots improved to 14-5 overall, 9-4 in the district. "It looked like we won the state title out there, didn't it?"

Last season the Vikings denied Park View that actual celebration, claiming the Virginia AA championship with a win over the Patriots. It was the Vikings' first championship, and the Patriots were denied a second round of back-to-back titles; Park View won the crown in 1989, 1990 and 2002.

"There's so much history between these two teams," said Wilson, who went 2 for 4 from the leadoff spot with an RBI and a run scored. "It seems like every time we play them it's in a big game. And you know it's going to be a great game, too. So we're psyched twice as much to play them as we are for any other game."

Loudoun Valley had clinched the district's regular season title, but Walley still saw the victory -- Park View's seventh in eight games -- as a "huge morale booster."

Loudoun Valley Coach Joe Spicer said he hopes the loss provides similar inspiration for his team.

"Honestly I think this might be the best thing that's ever happened to us," Spicer said. "We've been playing not to lose. . . . We've gotten too careful with our play lately. We haven't been aggressive enough, and it came back and bit us today."