Staring back at the winningest season in the Douglas High School girls' soccer program's 17-year history, coach Lorraine Fitzhugh had to toe the line between what she was losing and what she was gaining.
On one hand, the program is saying goodbye to the first four-year class of seniors that Fitzhugh had coached. On the other, it will be welcoming back 11 key players, including seven starters.
And yet, it was difficult to get away from how the season ended.
"I just haven't had a loss affect me like that in all my years involved in soccer," Fitzhugh said of Saturday's 3-1 state championship loss to Reed. "It was very tough to take, very tough to say goodbye to this team. What we accomplished, it's because of the unity this team had. The comaraderie was so deep. That's why we were able to accomplish as much as we did."
Looking across the field watching Reed celebrate its third-consecutive state championship gave Fitzhugh a brief glimpse into what could be the future of the Tiger soccer program.
"Reed was experienced," she said. "They'd been through that championship atmosphere before. You look at our team, none of us had been there. Even the seniors hadn't been to that level in zone. Experience makes a difference. We had seven seniors, but really we are very young."
It was that youth that helped Fitzhugh draw a clear set of positives from the loss.
"We will come back next year better off with that loss than with a win," she said. "We need the mistakes and the adversity to grow. Our starters on Saturday were mostly younger players. They will all return stronger and having that sting from that loss.
"They are the type of competitors that won't want to go through that again. They'll prepare for next year knowing that the loss made us stronger. We really have to take a step back and look at the whole season. We may not have been able to culminate with a win, but we did a lot of really good things."
Douglas loses senior leaders Ally Freitas (29 goals and eight assists), Dany Heidt (three goals, 10 assists) and Michelle Day on offense and defensive standouts Mackenzie Cauley, Sage Lyons, Kelly D'Amico and Kelsey Conklin.
Douglas will return six of its eight top goal scorers and its top two leaders in assists.
Five of the Tigers' returning starters will only be sophomores.
"It takes experience to learn what to do in that playoff atmosphere, how to maintain composure," Fitzhugh said. "I think the girls got a big dose of that on Saturday."
For the program, it was a return to its once-dominant form. The team won its sixth league title " the first since 2004, and scored 88 goals as a team.
Douglas swept its two games against rival Carson after six consecutive games without a win against the Senators.
The Tigers also opened the year with a 10-game win streak, the longest in the program's history.
"I'm very proud of what they accomplished this season," Fitzhugh said. "You take your lumps as a program and hopefully build on what you learn year to year."