Ashburn, Va. — Graduating a core group of starters can be tough for any team. Overcoming that challenge becomes even more difficult when your first two games of the season come against two of the best teams in the area.
The Briar Woods High School volleyball team found that out when they travelled to Dulles District contender Heritage then hosted perennial state power Loudoun County to open their 2018 season.
However, the young Falcons – who get regular playing time from four sophomores – found their stride in their third match of the season. Travelling across town, Briar Woods fended off an emotional Broad Run team to earn their first win of the season – 25-17, 25-18, 16-25, 25-20 – on September 6.
“With a young group like we have, we have some kids in big roles this year. They’re going to have to step up and play. It’s a learning process,” Briar Woods head coach Mike Byers said. “Broad Run is a long established program, so it’s good to be able to come over here into their gym and tough out a win like that.”
The Falcons started off strong, taking commanding leads in the first and second sets of the match. Despite the deficits, the Spartans continued to show life, crawling back into both of the first two sets. However, the Briar Woods defense – led by senior Kaitlyn Chan, sophomore Chandler Manusky and junior Alice Rosales – got back to the fundamentals and pushed the Falcons to a 2-0 lead.
“Volleyball is a game of errors,” Byers said. “You can afford aggressive errors when the team’s scoring points. But you have to nail down the easy stuff first.”
That was the same message the Spartans shared before heading into set number three. Broad Run brought a new energy to the third set, cleaning up their service errors and jumping out to a big lead from which Briar Woods could never recover.
Trailing 2-1, the Spartans again made a push midway through the fourth set as the Falcons were forced to take a timeout down 18-16.
“I felt like at times, they started outworking us a little bit,” Byers said. “It seemed like we were pulling three or four points ahead, then we’d serve out, or we’d miss an easy pass, or we’d miss an easy swing. When you have a chance to put pressure on the other team, you have got to take advantage.”
The timeout was the reprieve Briar Woods needed as the Falcons went on a 9-2 run to close out the set and win the match.
“Our energy really came back in the fourth set,” Chan said. “We stayed aggressive and just went after them. We didn’t want to lose. We had to keep pushing, and we did.”
The road does not get any easier for Briar Woods (1-2) as they host Freedom (6-0) on September 11 before traveling to Stone Bridge (5-1) on September 13. Broad Run (0-2) resumes district play at Potomac Falls (1-5) on September 11.
“A lot of it’s not about the physical; it’s a lot about the mental stuff right now,” Byers said. “We continue to preach to the girls that it’s not about perfection; it’s about progress.”