On its way home from the Virginia AAA field hockey championship in Richmond on Nov. 12, the bus carrying the Stafford High field hockey team was stopped by Stafford County police near the junction of Interstate 95 and Route 17.
The reason? The Indians had just won their first-ever state championship with a perfect 24-0 record, the first time an AAA champion had gone undefeated since 1999.
With the lights turned on in the bus, the team members stood and cheered as the police escorted the champions into the county. The ride was one of the highlights of the three-day state playoffs that senior Lauren Elstein captured as a slideshow and debuted at the school's fall banquet this week.
"It was just a great adventure," Stafford Coach Robin Woodie said.
Woodie's Indians share the top spot in the final rankings with a team that has considerably more experience celebrating championships.
Severna Park (19-1) won the Maryland 3A championship last week, and the Falcons seem set up to make a run at a 16th title next season. They graduate only four seniors; return the area's leading scorer, Hayley Rausch; and bring back goalie Corinne Manuel, who had 14 shutouts this year.
"You usually have the same players for two years in a row," Coach Lil Shelton said. "Next season I don't think they're going to skip a beat. The attitude of these girls is just so great."
Tuscarora Coach Mark Walcott hasn't seen every ranked girls' soccer team play, but he's confident his Maryland 3A champion Titans are among the area's best.
"I know there are a lot of talented teams out there," he said. "But our results speak for themselves."
The Titans (17-1) finished atop the rankings after ending the season on a 17-game winning streak in which they outscored opponents 53-5.
The Titans, who posted a 2-0 victory over Towson in the 3A final last Thursday, have come out of nowhere -- literally -- to emerge as the area's top team. The Frederick school opened in the fall of 2003 and only fielded junior varsity teams, but last year the Titans won the 1A title in their first year as a varsity program before a boost in enrollment forced them to move from the state's smallest classification to the second largest.
But it didn't matter. The Titans had six players who either had six goals or six assists -- led by senior midfielder Molly Franklin (17 goals, six assists) -- and a defense that posted 14 shutouts.
"It seems like forever when we were just a junior varsity team," said Franklin, who will play for Clemson next year. "But now, if you look at the talent we have, I'd be confident going against any team in the state."
It became a habit long ago, and it's one Centennial hopes not to break.
The Howard County school won a state-record 12th Maryland state volleyball championship last week -- 1A champion Williamsport also has 12 -- and finished No. 1 for the second season in a row. The title is Centennial's second straight at 3A and Coach Mike Bossom's eighth in 12 years.
Centennial (19-1) played eight matches against teams that spent time in The Post rankings, but lost only nine games all season -- and none in the postseason. Leading the Eagles were three of the team's four seniors, Jennifer Feldmann (489 assists), Sarah Gregorino (165 kills) and Allison Cappelaere (161 kills), and junior Michelle Grosso (167 kills).
"You never replace anyone but you hope that other players will step up and earn their way into a starting spot," Bossom said. "We had a lot of players participate this year and contribute. . . . They know what it takes."
Many talented individuals populated the DeMatha boys' soccer roster this season, but the Stags made history because they played as a team.
Top-ranked DeMatha (23-0) won its third consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship and completed the first undefeated and untied season in the program's history. Its success stemmed from the ability of talented players to jell.
"We said that no link in the chain would be broken and that we would be united," senior captain Kyle Albrecht said after DeMatha beat Gonzaga, 2-1, in the WCAC title game.
Maryland-bound senior forward Drew Yates led the Stags with 14 goals and 10 assists. Albrecht, who will play for George Washington, had nine goals and four assists.
"Obviously, at a school with such a storied tradition, to accomplish a record like that . . . it's very special," Albrecht said. "I would say I wouldn't have wanted to do it with anyone else but this group of guys."
Staff writers Jon Gallo and Daniel Lyght and special correspondent Rich Campbell contributed to this report.