When the Fauquier volleyball team started the season with five impressive wins, Lindsey Davis and her teammates pictured a smooth journey toward a Northwestern District title and the Region II tournament.

"We wanted to have that cushy good record," Davis said. "We thought we'd be floating along, but it didn't happen that way."

Fauquier finally clinched a region berth Thursday night but hardly in the carefree way they had imagined. Sparked by nine kills from Davis, they knocked off Warren County in a district tournament semifinal, 15-8, 15-12.

About 20 minutes later, the Falcons learned that they had advanced to the next stage when Handley defeated Liberty, 15-8, 15-3, in the other semifinal.

"We got to regionals the weirdest way possible," Fauquier's Blair St. Onge said, moments after learning the news.

But the Falcons (14-8) were not complaining.

"This is a huge step in their game plan from the beginning of the season because one of their team goals was to make regionals," Coach Diana Story said, "and from here, it's a new season."

Since their opening streak, the Falcons' prospects have wavered crazily. First, they lost four consecutive games, before reversing course with four straight wins. Two more losses preceded a strong finish as the Falcons won four of their last five regular-season matches.

Tuesday at Handley, their 10-point second-game lead disappeared as they fell to the Judges in a tiebreaker for the top seed in the district tournament. But Thursday, despite moments of erratic hitting, the Falcons dominated.

"It's a roller coaster," said senior Ashley Young, who had five kills and three aces in the crucial victory. "We started on top, we came down and now we're peaking again. It's a good time to peak."

The Falcons' late-season push resulted in a spot in the Northwestern District final against Handley. That match was postponed on Friday, but Fauquier is assured of at least two more matches this season.

"After we went through those lumps, I had my doubts," said senior Barbara Downes, who ignited her team on Thursday with eight consecutive service points in the first game, including six on powerful jump serves. "But now that we're in, I'm definitely excited."

The Falcons know they need to focus on closing out matches. Even in Thursday's win, Warren County scored three straight points in the second game to draw within 13-12 before St. Onge took control with a kill and a solo block.

"It's that whole cat-and-mouse thing we always do," Young said. "We just start playing with them. . . . We'll usually go up by a whole bunch, and they we'll just let them back into it."

Despite the occasional roadblock and season-long uncertainty, the Falcons are right where they thought they would be -- beyond their first postseason test and in the region tournament.

"This season, we have had to overcome the hurdles," St. Onge said, "and I think it does make it a little more satisfying that we had to fight for it."

Notes: Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley shared the Dulles District regular-season title. In winning a playoff match on Tuesday, Stone Bridge clinched the top seed in the district tournament and automatic berth in the Region II tournament. . . . Dulles semifinals and final were postponed until Monday at Potomac Falls. Loudoun County and Stone Bridge meet in the first match at 4 p.m., followed by Potomac Falls and Loudoun Valley. The championship match follows.