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Diamond dynasty: Nansemond-Suffolk wins 4th straight state softball title

Diamond dynasty: Nansemond-Suffolk wins 4th straight state softball title

A softball juggernaut in Suffolk continues to march on, and shows no signs of stopping.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy won its fourth straight VISAA Division II state championship and fifth overall on May 19, routing Fredericksburg Christian 13-1 in the title game.

But unlike recent teams that featured key senior (and future Division I) leadership, the 2023 squad that went 19-7 overall wasn’t necessarily expected to win it all. It had mostly underclassmen, with no seniors and three eighth graders on the roster.

"It was a very young team, the youngest I’ve coached that have had this much success for sure," said Brittany Thornburg, a 2008 NSA grad who took over as head coach in 2014. “And there were definitely some people at the beginning of the season that I think had their doubts as far as whether or not this team would be able to do it just because we were so young.”

However that young team bought in and continued to improve through the season, and peaked at the right time, Thornburg said.

She also got some special help from those who created the foundation.

“I reached out to a couple of my alumni just to say, 'Hey could you give me some words of wisdom to share with my younger team about what it’s like to play in those big games?'”

One of those was Maya McGowan '22, a senior on last year’s team who now plays at George Mason University.

Her sister Marin '25, a sophomore, would go into lockdown mode on the mound for NSA in the championship, with 10 strikeouts and just four hits allowed. She ended up being named the 2023 VISAA Division II Player of the Year.

Another sophomore in Malli Groves '25 added a big game at the plate against Fredericksburg Christian, going 4-for-4 with three RBI.

She also had the key play in the semifinal game, a two-run walk-off homer in the seventh to beat rival Isle of Wight Academy 5-4.

“[It was] unreal. We were exactly where I wanted to be in my lineup and I knew that she’d been seeing the ball really well all season, but particularly all week … it’s just one of those things I can replay in my mind, go back and watch that video over and over again,” Thornburg said.

McGowan and Groves were both named to the VISAA Division II First Team, along with junior Ellie Benes '24, junior Kayla Kosiorek '24, and eighth grader Addy Smith '27. Junior Rylea Nelms '24 was selected for the VISAA Division II Second Team.

And Thornburg was named the VISAA Division II Coach of the Year, in addition to Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools Co-Coach of the Year.

So can the Saints can make it five straight? Thornburg thinks so, as the whole team is set to return in 2024, but they’re really just trying to savor this one for the time being.

“We’re certainly still living in the moment. It’s kind of surreal, particularly for me being an alum. And you know these kids are accomplishing something I never had a taste of playing here myself … I think everyone kind of knows what the standard of excellence is for NSA softball … I think [the future] looks bright.”

Meanwhile at the collegiate level, NSA was well represented in this year’s NCAA softball postseason. Three alumnae: Addy Greene (Virginia Tech, NSA '21), Reese Byrd (UNC Greensboro, NSA '21) and Maya McGowan all competed in regional competitions. Jenna Elswick (NSA '21) reached the NCAA Division III Super Regionals with Virginia Wesleyan.

This article was first reported by digital reporter Brian Reese on WAVY.com on June 7, 2023.


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