By Owen Gotimer
Purcellville (November 18, 2015) — Loudoun Valley High School senior Erika Elias has made a commitment to continue her softball career at George Mason University beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year.
“I picked George Mason because I love the campus, the coaches and the team,” the 5-foot-6 Elias said. “And, of course, they have my major.”
Located just around the corner in Fairfax, George Mason is home to over 30,000 students making it the most highly enrolled university in Virginia.
With its large student population comes a large student-athlete population which make up 22 varsity sports.
Twelfth-year head softball coach Joe Verbanic led the Division I Patriots to a 23-29 record in 2015 including an 11-12 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference before George Mason made its way to the A-10 tournament final four.
While the Patriots failed to wrap up a conference title in 2015, Elias and the Lady Vikings – including St. Bonaventure-commit McKenna Holtz – cruised through the Conference 28 regular season and tournament, finishing 19-4 before falling to Warhill in a VHSL 3A East region semifinal.
Reclassifying to the VHSL 4A this fall — and one of the newest teams in Conference 21B and the VHSL 4A West region – Loudoun Valley’s .826 winning percentage in 2015 was .226 points higher than the next highest winning percentage team – Heritage – among those competing in Conference 21B this season.
“My optimistic expectations for Valley is to get to the state tournament this year, but hopefully this year we’ll at least win the region,” said Elias who plays travel softball for Fielder’s Choice Elite.
Loudoun Valley – whose young 2015 squad should fare well in 2016 – will not have an easy road ahead of them in winning the region as the VHSL 4A West includes Conference 21A and perennial powerhouse Woodgrove High School.
But Elias’ motivation and support-system – including her parents – might offer the Vikings just enough to push Loudoun Valley past the Wolverines for the first time in school-history.
“I started playing softball because my mom used to play and continue to play because I love the sport,” said Elias who was named first team All-LoCo in 2015. “I’ve been supported and lifted by a lot of important people along the way.”