Stone Bridge fell behind at the start of each game against No. 7 Fauquier in the Virginia AA Region II quarterfinals Tuesday. Slow starts have plagued the Bulldogs all season, however, so they knew how to respond.
Thanks to a few late-game hot streaks, Stone Bridge overcame the early deficits to defeat the host Falcons, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23, 25-19. The Bulldogs (17-7) advanced to the Region II semifinals and will face R.E. Lee of Staunton on Thursday.
"We didn't give up, and we kind of pulled together toward the end there when it got really tight," Stone Bridge Coach Jill Raschiatore said. "I was very impressed with the way my girls stepped it up, regained composure and played to win as opposed to playing not to lose."
Senior outside hitter Emily Vera and junior outside hitter Samantha Ingersoll played key roles in bringing the Bulldogs from behind on several occasions. Vera finished with 10 kills, 16 digs and 2 aces. Ingersoll led Stone Bridge with 13 kills and 3 aces.
Ingersoll said the Bulldogs came back repeatedly by getting "one person to get one thing, one hit, one block, one serve, one good dig."
"It takes one thing," she said, "and then it sparks everyone else."
With the match tied at one game each, Fauquier took a 4-1 lead to start the pivotal third game before the Bulldogs tied the score 7-7. The Falcons led 12-11 when Stone Bridge reeled off seven straight points. Fauquier fought back to make the score 22-21, but a kill by Vera and a block by Ingersoll thwarted the rally.
"I had a couple of players that stepped up at key moments and started to play smart," Raschiatore said. "They didn't go for the hard hits. They went for the smart shots that were open."
Fauquier assumed a 5-1 lead in the fourth game, but the Bulldogs pulled even at 13. With Fauquier trailing 21-19, Stone Bridge finished with four straight points, including a spike by Ingersoll to win the match.
Stone Bridge avenged a 3-2 loss to Fauquier on Sept. 2. From that match, Raschiatore knew that Fauquier was tenacious and that no lead was safe.
"We knew we couldn't relax," Raschiatore said. "We had to maintain composure and focus and keep pushing until the very last point of the last game."
Stone Bridge scrimmaged semifinal opponent R.E. Lee earlier this year, so the Bulldogs are somewhat familiar with their Valley District opponent.
"You almost have to play more error-free ball," Raschiatore said. "Robert E. Lee is the type of team that's going to keep doing their job and wait for you to make mistakes and beat yourselves."
As for the slow starts, the Bulldogs realize they can't keep them up and expect to win.
"I guarantee that's what we'll be working on [Wednesday] in practice," Ingersoll said.
Vikings: Another Sweep
Second-ranked Loudoun Valley disposed of Sherando in the first round the same way it did its first three playoff opponents -- via sweep. The Vikings, the AA Dulles District champions, turned in a decisive 25-16, 25-15, 25-13 victory Tuesday night over Sherando, the AA Northwestern District runners-up, in Purcellville to advance to the region semifinals.
"We're going to approach the next match the same as we have every other one this year," said Vikings senior Sarah Neikirk, who contributed eight kills. "We just have to keep playing together, keep playing as a team. That's our focus. We're quicker now than we were when the season started, and the chemistry is there. We just have to keep it going."
Junior middle Blair Brown led Loudoun Valley with a match-high 17 kills, 8 solo blocks and 2 block assists. Senior setters Allison Hamilton and Jen Todd added 16 and 15 assists, respectively. Hamilton also totaled a team-high 5 digs.
Loudoun Valley (24-0) will host Western Albemarle (18-3) tonight at 7 p.m. for a trip to the regional final and an automatic berth in the Virginia AA playoffs.
"I think it's a huge advantage for us to be at home," Vikings Coach Laird Johnson said. "Anytime a team has to come into our gym I hope they feel welcome, but I also hope they feel excited to play us because our crowd is excited to see us play. It's a great atmosphere."
Defending champion Notre Dame Academy beat Portsmouth Christian School, 25-16, 25-12, 25-12, to advance to the Virginia Independent Schools semifinals.
Senior Emily Springer led the Dragons with 20 kills and 9 blocks, and senior Ashlynn Nuckols had 12 kills, 7 ace and 4 blocks. Senior Melissa Astroga had 17 assists for the Dragons, who improved to 27-3-2.
Staff writers Angela Watts and Gene Wang contributed to this report.