If Liberty was struggling, its recent string of four matches in five days might have posed a serious late-season stumbling block. But since the Eagles are playing some of their best volleyball of the season, winning the first three of those matches, Coach Tom Ritchie has no complaints about the nonstop action.
After dropping the opening game Friday at Potomac Falls, Liberty rallied behind its middle blockers to win the next two games and the match. Junior Marsha Hermes had 16 kills and seven blocks, and senior Lara Able added 10 kills and six blocks.
The next day, Liberty topped Fauquier for the second time this season, twice turning away game points in the second game of a 15-10, 16-14 win. Hermes tied a school record with eight kills in the second game and finished with 14 kills and nine blocks. Able chipped in eight kills and seven blocks, and Krysta Norman (18 digs) and Nikki Jenkins (12) sparked a defense that finished with 61 digs.
After serving 96 percent against Potomac Falls, the Eagles turned in a 95 percent effort against Fauquier in what Ritchie said was the best match of his five-year head coaching career.
A victory over Park View on Monday gave Liberty four consecutive wins before Tuesday's match against Broad Run, which ended too late for this edition. Ritchie said his team was profiting from the rapid succession of games.
"I really think it's probably to our advantage," he said. "It's to the advantage of a team that's rising. They're serving well, and they're obviously in a hitting groove, so it's kind of nice that we don't break it up."
Panthers, Bulldogs Face Off Two of the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League's top teams will play for first place in the Liberty Conference when Potomac Falls faces Stone Bridge at Ashburn Ice House at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Potomac Falls (7-0-1) tops the conference, leading Stone Bridge (5-1-0), defending NVSHL champion, by five points. Potomac Falls has played two more games than the Bulldogs, however, so must win its last two games to protect the lead.
Since tying Broad Run, 6-6, on Dec. 20, the Panthers have won four consecutive games, including a 7-4 victory over Langley, which is second in the Liberty Conference. Potomac Falls senior C.J. Brobst (11 goals, nine assists) is tied for eighth in the league in scoring with Stone Bridge senior Matt Fairchild (12 goals, eight assists).
Stone Bridge, which defeated Broad Run, 11-5, on Jan. 10, can overtake Potomac Falls by winning its last four games.
-- Dan Steinberg and Colin Fitzgibbons