Turner Ashby 1,

Loudoun Valley 0

Loudoun Valley's white uniforms were caked in mud. So, too, were many of the players' bodies from one diving catch after another made Saturday in a Virginia AA softball semifinal against Turner Ashby.

But those certainly weren't the only visible signs of the toll the 1-0, 10-inning loss took on the second-ranked Vikings, whose players were exhausted after two long and emotionally draining days. It wasn't until after shaking hands with the Knights and leaving the field that the finality of the result sank in for Loudoun Valley.

"We had a wonderful season, we did," said center fielder Jessica Burke, the team's lone senior and one of a handful of starters who were instrumental in the Vikings' 2003 state title run. "It just wasn't supposed to end this way."

Nothing, though, seemed to go right for the Vikings on this trip. Loudoun Valley (24-4) was playing spectacular defense Friday and was locked in a scoreless tie with the Knights in the third inning when lightning and the heavy rain that followed forced the game to be suspended until Saturday.

As the girls huddled inside Radford University's Dedmon Center to escape the rain Friday, their beloved bus driver, Donald Clark, slipped in the storm and suffered a broken wrist and fractured bones in his face. After the loss, the girls signed a T-shirt so they could deliver it to Clark, who remains hospitalized, before heading back to Purcellville.

"It just hasn't been our weekend, I guess," Loudoun Valley Coach Joe Spicer said. "But I tell you what, these two teams were also about as evenly matched as you could find. Finally the ball just found a hole for them that it hadn't for us."

Turner Ashby -- which went on to defeat Jefferson Forest in Saturday night's final, 1-0 -- had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning when junior Whitney Eye's bloop single scored Morgan Wright. Eye was 0 for 4 before registering the hit.

"I had played deep the whole game, about 10 feet away from the fence," Burke said. "They just have so many good hitters that we didn't want to risk anything going over our heads. That one . . . there was just no way I could get to it."

Both teams squandered previous opportunities to end the game. Loudoun Valley had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh and runners on the corners in the ninth; Turner Ashby (27-2) loaded the bases in the sixth and ninth.

"We'd get runners in scoring position, but it seemed every time we did we also had two outs," Spicer said. "That prevented us from being in a situation to really make things happen."

Both teams also worked through two pitchers, with the Vikings throwing junior Cassie McGaha for the first six innings and junior Jamie Fraysher for the last four.

The two yielded seven hits, striking out six batters and walking three, two of those intentionally. The Knights split time between juniors Kelly Fox and Eye, with the duo yielding a combined six hits, striking out nine batters and walking one.

"We played for 10 innings and fought each other all the way," said All-Met junior shortstop Jennifer Everhart. "Both of our pitchers gave us everything they had. We really couldn't have asked for anything more. Sometimes, the ball just drops."

Jessica Everhart of defending state champion Loudoun Valley forces out Turner Ashby's Kate Lambert in semifinal in Radford, Va. The Vikings ended the season with 24-4 record.