This was Willowbrook softball's best season in 20 years.
The final game, though, surely left the Warriors wanting more.
Playing a team it had beaten less than three weeks ago on the same field, No. 12 seed Willowbrook fell to No. 5 Hinsdale South 7-1 at Wednesday's Class 4A Hinsdale South regional in Darien.
Warriors coach Rachel Karos didn't sound like someone satisfied with a 20-16 finish -- Willowbrook's first winning season since 1994, its first 20-win year since 1992. Two Warriors errors contributed to Hinsdale South runs. Offensively, Willowbrook never got on track.
"We just played scared, like we had never been in a regional before," Karos said. "We have to learn that we are better than this. We were putting the ball in play, and last year I would have been happy with that. This year I'm not happy with just that. Now that we're getting better and more competitive, my expectations are higher."
Karos chalked it up as a missed opportunity.
"You get seeded like this and you get to play against a team that you've competed well against already once, that's like a dream," Karos said. "To come out here nervous and play the way we did, it's a little disappointing."
Hinsdale South (23-11), which moves on to play York in Saturday's regional final, played like a team intent on erasing the memory of a 5-0 loss to Willowbrook in the schools' last meeting.
Already leading 2-1 through three innings, the Hornets batted around in a five-run fourth. That was plenty for starting pitcher Megan White (8-1), who scattered 6 hits.
"This is the Hinsdale South softball team we know we're capable of," Hornets coach Kelly Van Hout said, "and I think our record shows that."
Hinsdale South sophomore third baseman Sabrina Kuchta, who transferred in from Lockport this year, has been a huge addition with a team-best 37 runs batted in coming in to Wednesday. Kuchta had two of this game's biggest hits, too.
After striking out in the first inning to strand a runner at third, Kuchta clubbed a two-out solo homer in the third to snap a 1-1 tie. With two out in the fourth, Kuchta doubled in Lindsey Schwarz to cap off the Hornets' big rally.
"There were two outs, I swung and it felt good," Kuchta said of the homer. "Everybody kept inning one after the other, which was good to see."
Lauren Cairo tripled to start things in the fourth, the first of five straight batters to reach base. Schwarz doubled, one of her three on the day.
Willowbrook scored its only run in the third. Lauren Sauer doubled leading off and scored on a Megan Creighton single. Creighton and Sauer both had 2 hits.
Despite the discouraging finish, even better days appear on the Willowbrook horizon. Only three starters graduate, and freshmen shortstop Sam Schmidt, catcher Erin Sporer and Alyssa Ressinger are three good hitters in a young core.
"It's a tough game today, but I told the girls before the game there's no way they can possibly disappoint me after how they played this year," Karos said. "We've totally changed the program this year. I'm upset about this game, but I'm excited for next year. I've never looked forward to a next season so badly. They've worked so hard this season; I just wish they'd got more for it."