Ashburn, Va. — There was never a doubt for the Briar Woods High School volleyball team. Riding an 11-game winning streak entering the VHSL Region 5C championship, the Falcons scored the first point of the first set and never looked back, sweeping rival Stone Bridge High School in straight sets – 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 – in front of a home crowd in Ashburn on November 12.
“A lot of teams say we’ve been a slow starting team, so that’s one of the things we’ve been really focusing on,” Briar Woods head coach Joe Riggio said. “When we took the lead in the first set, we knew the momentum was going to be ours. We just settled in and played our game.”
Briar Woods’ 1-0 lead in the first quickly turned to 2-0 then 3-0 then 4-0. After the gap widened to 7-1, Stone Bridge was forced to take a timeout. That timeout helped settle the Bulldogs down as they closed the gap to 19-17, forcing the Falcons to take a timeout of their own. Briar Woods rallied out of that timeout to eventually win the first set, 25-20.
As long as we keep playing like we’re playing, we should do alright in the state tournament.
—Briar Woods defensive specialist Alice Rosales
Led by all-district junior libero Chandler Manusky, all-district senior defensive specialist Alice Rosales, and all-district senior setter Kelly Ryan, the Falcons again scored first in the second set. Their lead in the second quickly disappeared as Stone Bridge evened things out at 5-5, then 6-6, before taking their first and only lead of the entire match at 7-6. That one-point deficit was enough to light a fire underneath Briar Woods who rallied to a 13-8 lead.
“This could have gone either way, because Stone Bridge is an amazing team,” Rosales said. “But we had the momentum, and we had the courage to go out of our comfort zone to push through.”
Leading 21-13, Briar Woods’ momentum was most clear when what looked to be a Stone Bridge kill was saved off the foot of Ryan, keeping the play alive. While Ryan’s kick save didn’t touch down on the other side, the rally did eventually end in a Briar Woods point as the Falcons’ bench erupted.
“If you look at our stats, it’s a different person getting the kills each night,” Rosales said. “It’s really important not to rely on one person, so if one person is off, it doesn’t destroy the entire team dynamic.”
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get to this point, but we’re peaking at the right time, and the girls are just on fire. We’re ready for whatever teams throw at us.
—Briar Woods head coach Joe Riggio
The third set was all Briar Woods as the Falcons scored the first eight points of the set, then maintained a comfortable lead throughout to win the set, 25-19, and claim the region title, 3-0.
“It’s really good for our confidence. What we need to not do now is get into our heads,” Rosales said. “As long as we keep playing like we’re playing, we should do alright in the state tournament.”
The win is the twelfth in a row for Briar Woods and gives the Falcons home court advantage in their VHSL 5A State quarterfinal where they’ll host Albemarle on November 16.
“It’s been a long season,” Riggio said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get to this point, but we’re peaking at the right time, and the girls are just on fire. We’re ready for whatever teams throw at us.”