Ashburn, VA (November 6, 2014) – No one predicted that the Conference 14 Match between high seed Briar Woods Falcons and #2 Stone Bridge Bulldogs would be a quick one. The October 21, regular season show-down between the Ashburn rivals, in which the Falcons outlasted the Bulldogs with an incredible 20-18 win in the fifth set, made it seem another grueling game for the championship match was inevitable, but the epic battle never came.
Briar Woods came out strong, led by the powerful arm of junior hitter Lauren Twitty in the first 18 points of the first set, but the Stone Bridge girls kept their composure, with the help of seasoned senior hitters Shannon Williams and Heidi Engebreth, and the always calm, cool and collected senior setter Amy Gottschling. After trailing by as much as four points in the middle of the game, the Bulldogs tied up the score at 18-18 after a brilliant dig by sophomore defensive specialist Ryley Gill, which led to a slicing back line kill by Engebreth.
Stone Bridge scored the next two points, forcing Falcon’s head coach Marsha Hermes to call the first time out of the night. The Bulldogs then committed three unforced errors allowing the Falcons to tie the score at 21-21. Stone Bridge head coach Jill Raschiatore quickly called her first time out. Her team responded by rattling off a huge quick middle hit (Williams) thanks to an amazing dig by junior libero Abby Devido. Stone Bridge scored again bringing the score to 23-21. Twitty showcased her desire to win by slamming a back row attack on to the Bulldog’s half of the court, keeping a win for the Falcons a distinct possibility, but the Bulldogs converted the next serve receive in to a point with a kill in the middle by lefty sophomore Gabbie Scudder, followed by a swift ace serve by Engebreth.
The second set was much closer through the first half of the game, highlighted by an amazing corner save by Falcon senior libero Josie Lucernoni and an equally amazing kill by junior middle hitter Riley Garrison at 7-5. However, the Bulldog’s tenacious techniques kept them in the game, tying things up at 8-8. Engebreth demonstrated her depth as a player with three crucial digs in the front row during some rapid rallies at this point in the match, along with another slicing kill.
Two consecutive unforced errors by the Falcons allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead at 11-10, and they never looked back from there. A huge block kill at 14-11 against Twitty by Stone Bridge junior hitter Ashlyn Dunlop and junior middle hitter Caitlin Zura took the wind out of the Falcon’s prime power hitter. Thanks to the efforts of Stone Bridge libero, Devido, who refused to let Twitty gain a kill at least five times in the last 10 points, Stone Bridge went on to win that set 25-18.
Set three saw the Bulldogs in control of the scoreboard for the first 11 points of the match. When Coach Hermes called her first time out, the faces of her Falcon team looked drawn and worried. Her girls fought hard but just couldn’t pull ahead. Briar Woods called another time out at 17-12 after two crushing kills by Stone Bridge’s Williams from the middle. The Briar Woods volleyballers showed their mettle by fighting back to bring the score to a late-set tie at 21-21.
When the Falcons huddled up for the Stone Bridge time out, their anxious faces had been replaced by smiles full of hope. The Bulldog time out allowed Stone Bridge to regroup and score twice, once on a major dig by Devido which popped the ball right in to the hands of Gottschling who set Dunlop for a big kill, bringing the Bulldogs within 2 points of a sweeping victory. An ace serve by senior defensive specialist Bianca Mostert brought the Bulldogs up to match point.
Undaunted, Briar Woods fed the ball to Twitty who kept the ball on Stone Bridge’s side, causing them to commit two consecutive unforced errors. Twitty then pounded the ball to the ground, tying things up at 24-24. The Briar Woods crowd leapt to their feet to celebrate the renewed hope of a win against the Bulldogs. Thanks to a kill by Dunlop, followed by one of her screaming jump serves that forced a bad serve receive, a questionable set and a wide hit error by the Falcons, Stone Bridge emerged as the conference champs, victorious at 26-24.