The ease with which Fauquier cruised to victory over James Wood on Tuesday night was less surprising to the Falcons than it was comforting.
For a volleyball team with high expectations before this season, the 15-3, 15-5 win in Warrenton was a good sign that after a topsy-turvy season, things are finally back on the right track.
"I think we were just sick of it," said senior Ashley Young of a season that opened with five wins, then four losses. "We didn't want to take it anymore. We kept working hard to try to turn things around, and I think now we're finally clicking."
The first game was tied at three when Fauquier (12-6, 5-4 AA Northwestern District) went on a run of 23 consecutive points to pull away over James Wood (10-9, 5-4).
The Falcons find themselves in the middle of a five-team jumble atop the six-team district. Every team in the district has lost at least three times, and none had established itself as the favorite for the regular-season title.
The Falcons face first-place Sherando (6-3 in the district) on Friday night.
Three teams could be tied for first place by the end of this week.
"In our league this year, no one has wanted to pull away," Falcons Coach Diana Story said. "It really has been that any team can win on any given night.
"Now it's come down to this week. How you do in this week can make or break your season."
Fauquier had nine players back from last year, including all-district senior hitters Young and Blair St. Onge and expected to be one of the teams to beat in the district.
But a knee injury to junior setter Nicole Galvydis, St. Onge's five-match suspension and some tough defeats snowballed into a four-game losing streak that began Jan. 4 at James Wood.
The Falcons finally ended the tailspin at the Apple Capital Classic a week later and have now won seven of their last nine and three in a row.
Tuesday's was Fauquier's best match of the season, according to several team members. The Falcons' domination began with serving, as St. Onge had five aces and senior outside hitter Barbara Downes four.
Setter Elyse Walker placed the ball well for the hitters -- St. Onge, Downes and Young.
When Downes served her final ace of the match, the Falcons had an 11-0 second-game lead, and Story brought in the reserves.
"Now we've finally gotten back into the groove," said St. Onge, who plans to play for James Madison next year. "This was a big one for us. It was big not because we won but because we played like we should."