The Mountain Valley girls’ basketball team produced one of the best seasons in Falcons’ history, and did so in convincing fashion.

Mountain Valley earned its first No. 1 seed and posted a 17-1 record, one of the top three seasons record-wise in the program. All of it came after making the jump from Western Class C to Class B South.

“I’d be lying if I said that when I realized that we’d be realigning, it stressed us out a little bit,” Mountain Valley coach Ryan Casey said. “We were pretty comfortable with the MVC and Class C. When we jumped to Class B, we weren’t sure how things were going to shake out. We feel pretty lucky and honored to have played well enough to have the Heal Points to put us at the top of Class B. It’s a bit of a surprise, but it’s something we talked about and dreamed about. It was one of our goals.”

Mountain Valley’s best season was an 18-0 season in 1990, the first year of the school’s existence. The Falcons entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed. In 2002, an open-tourney year, Mountain Valley was 17-1 and seeded third. 

“We knew what we were capable of and we just wanted to be relevant and show what we had,” senior guard Karen Flaherty said.

The Falcons now have the chance at new milestones —  success that has proven a challenge for both Mountain Valley and other MVC and KVAC teams. Mountain Valley has only won four quarterfinal games in its history. One of those came last year in Western C. The Falcons have also never won a regional semifinal. In a field against experienced and talented WMC teams and a veteran KVAC club like Lincoln Academy, the tourney could be a difficult step up for the Falcons.

“We really don’t know what the tourney holds,” Casey said. “The good things is we played with some of those teams this summer, but there are some really good teams, and we don’t really know where we stack up.”

After going 13-5 last year, the Falcons won a quarterfinal in Augusta and lost to Maranacook, the regional champion, in the semifinals. Graduating just two seniors, the Falcons were poised to improve upon that effort this season.

“Lots of foundation was built last year,” Casey said. “Just some confidence and belief, the summer basketball season we just exceptional.”

Then the outlook changed a little for the Falcons. The alignment change came, putting Mountain Valley in a much tougher B South tourney field. They would have likely been a contender for a regional title in C South this season. The Falcons also lost junior guard Julia Perry to a knee injury.

“When we lost Julia, we had to do some adjusting,” Casey said. “The roles we had established during the summer would have to have some adjustments. I’m really proud of our kids for stepping into new roles. They handled it really well, and Julia’s been right there on the bench cheering us on.”

Though Flaherty, Sydney Petrie and Tori Ryerson are the only seniors, the Falcons have a solid core of juniors in Liza White, Ashley Russell, Emily Laubauskas, and Emily Billings. All returned from a year ago. New players like Abby Mazza, Chelsea Allison and Grace Briggs gave the Falcons an experienced and balanced team. Petrie was a first-team MVC All-Conference player, while Russell was second team All-Conference.

“This year we definitely stepped it up,” Russell said. “As a sophomore, and getting there as a team, it was pretty cool. Not a lot of teams had been there in a long time. So it really set the bar for this year and showed that we were capable of making it.”

Most of the Falcons on the basketball team are used to a sporting resurgence, and have part of the revitalization of other sports at the school. Both the soccer and softball teams have had a reversal of fortune with this group of athletes.

“The teams have completely flipped,” Flaherty said. “My freshman year, we maybe won (five) games (in basketball). Our junior and seniors girls have played together for a while.”

The Falcons were a dominant team in the MVC. Their only losses — one each in the regular season and in the conference championship game — have come against Boothbay. But now, things change.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere,” Flaherty said. “Oak Hill is the only Class B team we play. So we don’t know how the competition is going to be.”

The Falcons defeated the Raiders handily in the regular season, but Oak Hill lost to Poland in the prelims. Mountain Valley draws the Knights in the quarterfinals. Poland played at the Expo last year, while these Falcons have not played there.

“There’s a lot of pressure going into the playoffs because we could play our first game and lose,” Russell said.

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