Briar Woods digs out of another hole to edge Tuscarora for the Virginia 5A North region volleyball title

It seems like the Briar Woods volleyball team is always playing from behind. Half of the time at the practice, players say, is used on drills to spark a comeback. Parents call the team “the cardiac kids.”

Yes, the Falcons dig themselves into holes, but they find a way back out again.

“We have done that so many times to ourselves,” outside hitter Michaela Levings said, “and we’re always able to get out of it.”

And so a six-point deficit to Tuscarora in the third set of the Virginia 6A North regional championship is somehow not a cause for concern. Who cares that Tuscarora swept Briar Woods in straight sets the last time these two played?

Certainly not Levings. “We’ve been here before,” she said.

But Briar Woods had not rallied from that far down to snatch a region title. That is, until Saturday. A dozen serves after that third-set deficit, the Falcons had pulled even, then went on to take the set, then the match, 20-25, 25-20, 26-24, 21-25, 15-5.

“They challenge us so well. They match up against us so well. They pushed us hard,” Falcons Coach Mike Byers said.

Briar Woods (22-3) will host Deep Run of Henrico County on Tuesday in the 5A state semifinals. The Huskies (15-12) also advanced and will travel to 5A South champion Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach.

Earlier in third set Saturday in Leesburg, Tuscarora’s Anne Louise Seekford served five aces in six points for a 14-8 lead.

Mackenzie Courtney stopped the run with a block for Briar Woods, and Tuscarora Coach John Senchak took a timeout after a spike attempt hit the net. He took his second timeout moments later during a Falcons 5-0 run. And during another 5-0 spree soon after, he couldn’t break Courtney’s rhythm as she served three straight aces to tie the game.

“I don’t know how she did it,” star hitter Logan Manusky said.

Briar Woods led after three sets. Tuscarora evened the score after a fourth set dominated by hitter Sarah Pearsoll, who had five kills in the period.

But in the fifth and decisive set, the Falcons took control defensively. They had four blocks, two apiece by Levings and middle blocker Jewel Clark. Levings had three kills, part of her match-high 15. Manusky, who shined defensively, had two of her 13 kills.

“They are tough kids,” Byers said. “We’ve pushed them since the first day of tryouts. Now they’re here.”

Cougars claim region crown

Oakton claimed the Virginia 6A North region title in a 3-1 win overLangley. The Cougars will host Kellam on Tuesday in the 6A state semifinals. Langley will travel to Ocean Lakes. . . .

Loudoun County swept James Wood High to win the Virginia 4A West region. It’s the Raiders’ 11th straight region championship. They will host Courtland on Tuesday.

Titles for Knights, Dragons

Maxine Friedman and Sarah Lawler have carried the O’Connell attack all season, and they didn’t stop in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I final at Richard Bland College in Petersburg. The seniors combined for 45 kills in a 25-21, 25-23, 25-27, 29-27 victory overFlint Hill as the Knights captured their first title since 2006.

Lawler notched 22 kills, including the game-winner to finish with 1,004 for her career, while Friedman led O’Connell (35-4) with 23 kills and finished with 1,025 total.

“The bench was jumping up and down, parents and coaches,” O’Connell Coach Mehdi El Alaoui said. “We’ve been through a lot. They wanted it. Especially the seniors, they wanted it so bad.”

Flint Hill (27-4) erased a 24-18 deficit in the third set to extend the match before falling short in the fourth. . . . .

Middleburg Academy wrapped up a dominant season by capturing its second consecutive VISAA Division II title with a 25-12, 25-19, 25-27, 25-23 win against Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Sophomore Chelsea Penfield led the team with 19 kills and five blocks, sophomore setter Lillian Vargo delivered 35 assists and senior Alison Thomas had 21 digs and five aces.

The No. 5 Dragons (39-3) relied on their depth and balance throughout the fall and after losing senior Meagan McDonald to a knee injury earlier this season.“This team just didn’t look in the rear view mirror,” Middleburg Coach Maureen DiClementi said. “The injury happened and they came together as one team.”

Eric Goldwein contributed to this report.


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