Area sports ranked among state’s best

Central's Mary Wakeman, left, Sydney Plum, center, and Rebecca Truban, right, celebrate after defeating Loudoun Valley in the Conference 28 girls basketball finals. The Falcons advanced to the Group 3A state semifinals, their deepest postseason run in 18 years. Rich Cooley/Daily file

The beginning of 2015 is here, marking the end of yet another year of local sports. The past year provided the area’s sports scene with mix of storylines: state championships were won, records were set, childhood dreams were realized and a beloved coach and mentor was laid to rest.

Here’s a look at the top local sports storylines of 2014 (listed chronologically) as selected by members of The Northern Virginia Daily sports staff:

1. Nic Campbell wins third state wrestling title: Strasburg’s Nic Campbell capped a dazzling junior season by winning the Group 2A state wrestling championship at 126 pounds, his third title in as many seasons. After pinning his way through two bouts to reach the state championship round, Campbell survived a grueling match against Grundy’s Austin Hurley that included two stoppages after a laceration on Campbell’s forehead opened up. Despite the injury, Campbell held on for a 5-2 decision.

Campbell, who ended his junior season with a perfect record of 56-0, also won individual championships at the Bull Run District and Region 2A East tournaments during the 2013-14 season.

2. Hunter Dean defends championship: Campbell wasn’t the only Ram to stand atop the podium at the Group 2A state wrestling tournament in Salem in 2014. Strasburg’s Hunter Dean also accomplished the feat, as he capped his junior season with a state title in the 132-pound weight class for his second straight state championship. Dean, who made the incredible leap from 106 to 132 pounds between his sophomore and junior seasons, beat James River’s Luke Arney via 11-2 major decision for the title and ended his junior year with a record of 52-3.

Members of Sherando's baseball team celebrate after Chase Smallwood scored the game-winning run off Reid Entsminger's hit against Louisa County in the regional semifinals. The Warriors advanced to the Group 4A state semifinals. Rich Cooley/Daily file

Backed by the efforts of Campbell and Dean (who also won Bull Run District and Region 2A East championships), Strasburg finished as the state runner-up behind Grundy for the second straight season.

3. Falcons soar to state semis: Central’s girls basketball team made its deepest postseason run in 18 years back in March, as the Falcons reached the state tournament for the first time since winning a state championship in 1996. Led on the court by the school’s all-time leading scorer, Katelyn Poston, and fellow seniors Sydney Plum, Rebecca Truban and Mary Wakeman, Central advanced all the way to the Group 2A state semifinal game, where the Falcons fell to eventual state champion Spotswood, 75-52.

Under the guidance of second-year head coach Mallory Skarupa and assistant coach Sarah DiNardo-Swartz — a member of Central’s 1996 squad — the Falcons won the inaugural Conference 28 tournament championship and sealed its state tournament appearance with a wild 49-45 overtime victory over John Marshall in the Region 3A East semifinals. Central finished the season with a record of 19-9.

4. Warriors return to state tournament: A year after winning the Group AAA state championship, Sherando’s baseball team found itself back in the title hunt in the new Group 4A classification in 2014. Led by seniors Reid Entsminger and Chase Smallwood, the Warriors recaptured some of the postseason magic that powered them during their championship run a year before.

It began when Sherando (16-8) rallied in the sixth inning to beat Heritage (Leesburg) in the Conference 21 quarterfinals and continued in the Region 4A North tournament. The Warriors topped Eastern View 1-0 in the regional quarterfinals despite mustering only one hit to back a stellar pitching performance from Adam Whitacre, and they locked in a return trip to the state tournament with Entsminger’s walk-off triple in a 2-1 win over Louisa County in the regional semifinals. Sherando’s season came to a close in the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual state champ Hanover, 6-2.

Strasburg's Evan Snapp awaits a throw as Riverheads' Billy Coffin steals second during the Region 2A East semifinals. The Rams rallied from a three-run deficit in the seventh inning to win, as they continued their march to the Group 2A state championship game. Rich Cooley/Daily file

5. Rams reach state championship: Strasburg enjoyed its own success on the baseball diamond in 2014, as the Rams advanced to the Group 2A state championship game for the first time since winning the Group A title in 2007. Led by a dominant pitching staff that was spearheaded by Tyler Doman and Mark Smoot, the Rams won a school-record 22 straight games and claimed Conference 35 and Region 2A East championships along the way.

Strasburg (24-2) punched its ticket to the state championship with a 6-0 win over Randolph-Henry in the semifinals, a game that featured a complete game shutout by Doman and timely RBI hits from Evan Snapp, Ryan Murphy, Josh Pritchett and Ian Butler. The Rams mustered little offense against Virginia High School in the state championship game, however, and the Bearcats used a four-run sixth inning to end Strasburg’s historic run with a 6-2 win.

6. Erick Green signs with Nuggets: Former Millbrook High School and Virginia Tech standout point guard Erick Green officially had his NBA dreams realized this summer when he signed a 3-year, $2.33 million contract with the Denver Nuggets. The contract offer came a year after Green was drafted 46th overall by the Utah Jazz and subsequently dealt to the Nuggets in a draft-night trade during the 2013 NBA Draft. Green spent the 2013-14 season playing professionally for Montepaschi Siena in the Italian League.

The 2013 ACC Player of the Year made his NBA debut on Nov. 7, scoring six points in nine minutes of action in Denver’s 110-101 loss to Cleveland.

7. “Tater” Myers passes away: Sherando High School said goodbye to one of its original varsity coaches when Adam “Tater” Myers passed away on Sept. 28 at the age of 77. Myers served as the head coach of the Warriors’ softball team from the school’s opening during the 1993-94 school year through the 2004 season and was also a longtime assistant with Sherando’s golf team. He also served as the head coach of the JV boys basketball team for 10 seasons.

Myers led the Warriors’ softball team to one of its most successful seasons in 1995, when Sherando captured the Region II championship and advanced to the Group AA state tournament, the program’s only state tournament appearance to date.

8. Brett Loy wins golf title: Sherando sophomore Brett Loy made history in October when he became the first Warrior to win an individual state golf championship. Loy led the Group 4A tournament field by one stroke with an even-par 72 at Ivy Hills Golf Course after the first day of the event, and he managed to get just one hole in on the second day before the tournament was called due to rain. Loy’s two-day total of 76 was enough to win the championship by one stroke, giving him his first career postseason victory with the Warriors.

Loy, who placed first or second in his last four tournaments of the season, also claimed victories in a Conference 21 mini and two Northwestern District mini tournaments during the 2014 season.

9. Dukes make the playoffs: James Madison University welcomed in a new head coach in Everett Withers prior to the 2014 season and Withers promptly led the Dukes to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the school’s first postseason appearance in three seasons. Led offensively by quarterback and Georgia Tech transfer Vad Lee and a defense featuring all-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selections Sage Harold and Dean Marlowe, JMU went 9-3 overall in the regular season and finished third in the conference at 6-2.

The Dukes’ postseason experience, which featured the school’s first home playoff game since 2008, was short-lived, however, as Liberty University ended JMU’s season when it rallied for a 26-21 win at Bridgeforth Stadium on Nov. 29.

10. Express unveils national scouting network: Strasburg Express president/general manager Jay Neal brought on former minor league player and coach Duke Dickerson as the team’s director of player development in August, and Dickerson repaid the Express by forming a nationwide network of scouts unique to the Valley Baseball League and similar collegiate summer leagues. Unveiled in December as the Strasburg Express Scouting Network, the system consists of over 15 individuals who will serve as scouts for Strasburg’s VBL team and help draw baseball talent to the Shenandoah Valley from all over the country.

The scouting network includes Charlie Hayes, a former professional baseball player with 15 years of Major League Baseball experience, former World Series champions Bob Humphreys, Jim Leyritz and Willie Aikens, as well as numerous other former professional players, coaches and scouts.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com