As Jamestown High's girls tennis team earned its traditional spot in the Group AA state semifinals with a win Tuesday, it seemed, as always, that one or two other Bay Rivers District teams would join them out west for the Virginia High School League's Spring Jubilee.
Sure, the Tabb softball lost to defending state champion Woodgrove, although more decisively than expected. And Jamestown's girls soccer team saw its semifinal chances at Briar Woods dissipate when starting goalie Hannah Sams left the game with an injury after only 20 seconds.
But Lafayette's boys soccer and Warhill's baseball teams lived up to their billings as 50-50 shots to win, though they could not exceed that. Lafayette fell 2-1 to Tuscarora on a goal in the final four minutes, while Warhill failed to score with the bases loaded and none out in the bottom of the eighth inning, and fell to Woodgrove 2-1 in 12 innings.
So, except for some serves, volleys and baseline rallies for the Eagles' girls tennis players this week, Bay Rivers District sports ends more quietly than it has at any time in the past six years. Here's a review of the district other state quarterfinalists.
The Lions will look back on the most successful season by any boys athletic team in the school's six-year history. The repeat district title, district tournament title, Region I championship and 20-5 record exceed anything done by a Warhill boys athletic team.
On the other hand, the Lions must look ahead minus a group of standout starting seniors that includes Blake Wills, Thomas Richardson, Hunter Hux, Tyler Klinedinst and Clay Frost. The biggest loss is ace pitcher Michael Brumfield, who went 11-1, batted nearly .360, pitched a great first nine innings in the state quarters and was picked as district and regional Player of the Year.
Blake Otey, who was terrific in three outings after returning from a sore back that sidelined him much of the season, will be the heir apparent on the mound. Starters Luke Patterson, Pat Daly, Jordan Hackney and Lucas Rice give Coach Joe Henzel a nucleus to build around.
"It's a good question," Henzel said, when asked if the Lions can rebuild into a title contender. "We knew we could move in this direction with this group of guys.
"Whether we can do it with another group is the challenge."
Lafayette boys soccer
The Rams (18-1-1) turned district soccer on its head this season. Jamestown and Tabb made their runs to the state tournament a year ago with offensive-minded teams very different from the dominant defense of the 2013 Rams.
The Rams shut out 15 of 20 opponents and did not allow a goal in their nine games in May. On those few occasions the opposition could get past Emery Trott, Denzel Speed, Anthony Vaccaro or Andrew Vaccaro, goalkeeper Alex Emerson was an athletic brick wall.
But Trott was a star. Not only did he dominate in the air and put the clamps on Tabb star Riley Maw (28 goals) in two shutouts of the Tigers, he moved in to attack plenty enough to lead the Rams with 12 goals and 10 assists.
Trott, Emerson and a couple of other key seniors graduate. But the return of several defenders and three very talented freshmen attackers — Jason Eckenrode, Reeves Trott and Matt Beatty — along with a favorable move (away from Grafton, Tabb and Jamestown) to Class 3, means the future is bright for the Rams.
"This the most memorable team I've had in a while, because they were so in sync with each other," Rams coach Brian Sorrell said. "They made it fun, because what we did in practice, they executed in the games."
Picked to finish eighth in the Bay Rivers, the Tigers (16-8) staked their claim as a contender with a 2-0 win over then-unbeaten Smithfield on Jordan Brewer's two-run home run at midseason. But as Tigers coach Ashley Meredith noted, quite correctly, many considered it a fluke.
That was even more so when Smithfield beat the Tigers on the final day of the regular season to win the title, then won the district tournament. Tabb rebounded to win its biggest meeting, 2-1 at Smithfield in the regional semifinals, with a state berth on the line.
The Tigers got .500 hitting from third baseman Kayla St. John, who was named this week as the regional Player of the Year. After missing much of 2012 with an injury, sophomore Ashtyn Clark became one of the district's toughest pitchers, with a big assist from her battery mate, catcher Brittany Barrett.
St. John, Brewer and Barrett graduate. Clark, Taylor Rue and sisters Morgan and Kendall Wooddell give the Tigers plenty to build around.
"I had high expectations for this team, because they came out in early practices like they had been playing together for 10 years," Tigers coach Ashley Meredith said. "That's rare."
Jamestown girls soccer
Even after losing Shelby Foret, one of the district's most dynamic offensive players, the Eagles (17-2-2) cut a path through the Bay Rivers like few ever have. Unbeaten in 13 games against Bay Rivers foes, they outscored them 60-2.
Offensively the stars were the attacking dynamic duo of Aaliyah Lyttle (16 goals, 13 assists) and Paige Majdic (15 goals, 12 assists). Returning all-state selection Marissa Segala and goalie Sams led a defense all but impenetrable to Bay Rivers opposition.
Fortunately for the husband-wife coaching tandem of Kevin and Michelle Dawson, Majdic and Lyttle return for offense that should be more explosive next season as sophomore midfielder Bailey Christian continues to improve. The key to success on the state level might be retooling a defense that loses the indefatigable Segala and Sams.
"We had a great team with highly skilled individuals who came together as a unit," Michelle Dawson said. "They followed the Jamestown style of possession soccer.
"They played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back."