With starters Sasha Bondje and Katie Goss sidelined with season-ending knee ligament injuries, the fifth-ranked Forest Park volleyball team twice came within one point of a convincing victory over No. 10 Fauquier in Warrenton on Thursday night. But the Bruins couldn't close out a win that would have given their reworked lineup confidence moving forward without two of their best players.
The feisty Falcons managed to stave off defeat in the third and fourth games before completing an improbable comeback, dealing Forest Park a tough 19-25, 18-25, 27-25, 28-26, 15-11 defeat in a AAA nondistrict game.
"It's a little frustrating, honestly," Forest Park outside hitter Amy Trykowski said. "But compared to a team like that, that's a good team to lose to. At least it wasn't to a team that shanks every ball. If we lost to that kind of team, it would be disappointing."
Forest Park (3-1) has two more nondistrict games before opening Cardinal District play against Woodbridge on Sept. 27. The Bruins will use those contests to refine their ball control, something Coach Dan Jones is emphasizing without six-footers Bondje and Goss.
"We're making adjustments, and some girls are going to have to continue to step up," Jones said. "We have to play a little bit different match. Ball control is essential for us. Losing those two big kids, we have to have the ball at the net with all our options."
The Bruins looked sharp on offense in the first two games Thursday, using an 8-0 run in the first game and a 7-0 spurt in the second to win the first two games and take a commanding lead. Bruins senior Alix Grimm had five kills during that span.
"Early on, I thought defensively and ball control, we were dominating in those areas of the game," Jones said. "Then that kind of went by the wayside, I think, for a variety of reasons -- them serving a little more consistently, getting away from the jump serve that was creating a lot of errors for them."
Down 24-23 in the third game and 25-24 in the fourth, the Falcons survived to force a fifth game. Falcons middle blocker Paige Brunsink had a team-high three kills in the final game.
"We knew this was going to be a great match for us, a good test," Fauquier Coach Diana Story said. "We have not played a [high] caliber team as they are in probably several years. They are a top-notch team, and to beat them is truly an accomplishment for us."
Carlyn Fireline, Erin Nuckols and Danielle Caracciolo took turns filling in for Bondje and Goss, and Jones was pleased that they were able to gain experience against strong competition in such a tightly contested match. Jones will continue to rely on those three as the shorthanded Bruins attempt to return to the regional playoffs.
Jones said: "We're just going to keep looking at those three and figure out which we're better suited to."