Before Friday night's Virginia AA volleyball semifinal with Loudoun Valley, Fauquier senior Blair St. Onge went to her five fellow starters, asking each what she thought the team needed to do to win the match. The Falcons took the first game easily, but when they fell behind by six in the second, St. Onge released the results of her informal poll.
The most popular answers? Don't make unforced errors, don't miss serves and concentrate on hustling.
Thus reminded, the Falcons rattled off 10 straight points and pulled away for a surprisingly easy 15-3, 15-8 victory over the two-time defending state champion Vikings at Broadway High. And they did so by following the advice they had given to St. Onge.
"Put those [things] together," St. Onge said after the match, "and you've got yourself a win."
The Falcons' second-game spurt allowed them to avoid yet another third game. Fauquier had won four straight matches in three games, including last Saturday's back-and-forth victory over Loudoun Valley in the Region II final. But the Falcons, who made their first appearance in a state volleyball final yesterday afternoon (against Cave Spring), avoided a letdown Friday.
"We knew at this stage of the game you can't do that," said senior Barbara Downes, "so we had to go full force the whole time."
On the other side of the net, some of Loudoun Valley's inexperience showed. The Vikings (20-9) appeared rattled from the start, shanking passes and missing serves.
"We came out really nervous, because we knew this was the most important [match] of the season," said Lori Potts, one of just four seniors on the Vikings' roster. "We played cautiously instead of as aggressively as we should have."
Leading hitter Blair Brown had just one attacking opportunity in the first game; she and senior Alana Boyle were the only Vikings to record kills.
"A lot of the younger players were really nervous," said Boyle, who pointed out the team had already soared past its preseason goal of a regional tournament berth. "I guess they just weren't expecting" the nerves.
But the Vikings nevertheless kept their program in the spotlight during what was to have been a rebuilding year. They played in a state semifinal for the fourth straight year and reached at least 20 victories for the fifth straight season. Over the past four years, Loudoun Valley is 95-12, with a remarkable .888 winning percentage.
"Nobody thought we'd do anything," said first-year coach Laird Johnson. "Everyone talked about it as a rebuilding year for us. The girls believed in themselves; we believe in the program; and it got us to where we want to be. . . . It's satisfying knowing we came a long way in a short period of time."
The Vikings have become a model of consistency for other local teams, according to Fauquier Coach Diana Story.
"They lost a lot of big guns last year, and I think a lot of people counted them out because of that," she said. "But it shows the strength of their program and of their girls for them to come together as a team."