The Fairfax High volleyball team rode a strong start to the season to build itself into a Northern Region contender. But the Rebels had lost three of five coming into Tuesday’s senior night match against Langley and were in danger of falling into the middle of the pack in the Liberty District.

“We realized we needed to get [it] together, because it’s now or never,” said Megan McKenzie, one of the team’s six seniors. “It hit us on the head like a brick that we needed to wake up.”

After dropping a close opening set, the Rebels shook off their nerves, used a series of lengthy service runs and a resilient attack to power their way to a 23-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-17 victory against one of the region’s perennial powers.

The Rebels (18-6) led 12-8 in the third set when freshman Savannah Powers toed the service line and reeled off six consecutive points that visibly deflated the Saxons (17-4).

McKenzie set senior outside hitter Nora Elliot for a kill that closed out the set. In the fourth, the duo combined for back-to-back service runs that turned an 8-6 advantage into a 15-7 cushion, and all but put the match out of reach.

After Jessica Donaldson’s kill that ended McKenzie’s service, Fairfax’s do-it-all outside hitter/setter set Elliot for another one of her 11 kills. From there, Elliot served three consecutive aces.

“Nora gets runs almost every match with her topspin jump serve,” said McKenzie, who finished with a team-high 14 kills. “We can serve teams off the court, and that allows us to relax, get into our groove and focus on playing defense and getting the ball back.”

The Saxons generally play a 6-2, but with senior setter Jenna Dean sidelined with a concussion, junior Alex Andrejev was forced to shoulder more of the load than usual. That limited her impact on the outside, where as a left-handed hitter she is one of the team’s most lethal finishers.

Typically a strong late-season team, Langley had won 35 of its past 40 October matches dating back to 2008. But the Saxons were flat from the start and never matched the Rebels’ energy. The Saxons close out their regular season at home against No. 2 Stone Bridge, which cruised past Jefferson in straight sets.

The Rebels, who moved into a tie for second in the district, travel to Jefferson for their final regular season match.

“This shows other teams that we’re for real and we’re competitive for a change,” Elliot said of Tuesday’s win. “We brought energy tonight, and right now we’re peaking.”