Ashburn, VA (November 22, 2016) – After finishing the 2016 regular season with a 17-1 record, and avenging their first loss of the season by defeating Stone Bridge in the consolidation round of the Conference 14 Championship, the Briar Woods Falcons volleyball team went on a run in Regional action. After taking to the road to defeat Brooke Point (3-0), Marshall (3-1), Patrick Henry of Roanoke (3-2), and Tuscarora (3-2), the Falcons punched their ticket to the state title match by defeating Deep Run (3-0) at home.
However, they were to face a formidable foe from Virginia Beach, the Princess Anne Cavaliers, who were hungry to win their first-ever State title.
In 2014, led by current NCAA Division 1 athletes Jasmine Ellison and Lauren Twitty, Briar Woods defeated Princess Anne in a spectacular state championship match in which the Falcons staved off a loss despite being down 0-2 at the start. The Falcons snuck past the Cavaliers by winning 17-15 in the 5th set. Princess Anne seemed determined not to have a repeat of that painful night again this year.
Coming out like gang busters in the first set, the Cavaliers pushed Briar Woods into a nine-point hole before giving up their first point on a foot fault error from a back row attack. Briar answered with a few more points, again contributed by Princess Anne errors. Despite that, Briar made crucial overpass errors too many times and the Cavaliers pounded them home to the Falcons’ floor each time.
Cavalier senior Chica Osuchukwu and sophomore Jayna Francis led a constant barrage of hits unanswered by the Falcons’ offense until late in the match when senior setter Maria Gonzalez was subbed in at 23-9. She connected with junior outside hitter Natalie Rothrock who rallied for two consecutive kills. Her teammates followed suit and scored another 6 points in a row, but it was too little, too late. Princess Anne took the set 25-15.
The Falcons came out in the second set looking much more composed and ready to battle, getting the first two points with an error by Princess Anne, and a nice kill by senior middle Samantha Martin. Falcons’ senior right side Michaela Levings kept the momentum going with hits off the Cavaliers’ block.
Conference 14 Player of the Year, Logan Manusky scored her first kill of the night to bring her team their first two-point lead at 6-4. She struck again moments later to give them a three-point lead at 8-5. Sophomore middle blocker Jewel Clark maintained that lead and pushed back her tenacious opponents several times to force Cavaliers’ coach, Craig Dooren to call his first time out of the night with the Falcons up 10-5.
This would end up being the largest point spread of the night for Briar Woods. They kept the lead until repeated attacks by Francis’ beautifully arcing back sets across the length of the net from setter Alyssa Presto allowed the Cavaliers to tie things up at 15 points apiece.
Following Briar Woods’ coach Mike Byers time out talk, Manusky rallied with an amazing dig, followed by a nice back row kill to put her team back in the lead at 17-15. This was followed by two consecutive hitting errors by Princess Anne and a nice tip kill by Clark in the middle, which left the audience thinking the Falcons could pull off a win. But with a 21-16 lead, a Briar Woods long service error opened the door for the Cavaliers.
The Falcons then opened the door a bit wider with a hitting error. Princess Anne’s Osuchukwu tipped smartly for a kill, forcing another time out by the Falcons who were still in the lead at 21-19. But after a hitting error by Briar Woods allowed for another screaming kill by Cavalier sophomore Francis, the score was tied again at 21. More back and forth play ensued, and moments later the score was tied again at 23-23. Cavalier setter Presto used a tricky behind the back dump kill over the net to put them within one point of a win. Osuchukwu finished things off with a giant block to take the 2nd set, 25-23.
The winded Falcons returned to the court in the 3rd set and rallied to regain the momentum they had found in the 2nd set. A huge block by Briar Woods’ Clark and Rothrock early on seemed to be just what the Falcons needed to turn the tide at 4-4, but not so. The Falcons made an unusual out-of-rotation serving error, which was followed by a questionable back row attack call. Princess Anne kept on firing, taking the score to 14-8. The Falcons could not stop the bleeding off the particularly hard and fast plays by Osuchukwu and Francis. They dropped set three and the match 25-11.
Assistant Coach Jose Gonzalez, whose daughter played her final match of her high school season said “This will sting for a while. Maria and I did our crying last night. It was good run.”
Stat leaders for Briar Woods:
- Logan Manusky, 6 kills, 20 digs
- Natalie Rothrock 8 kills
- Maria Gonzalez 15 set assists