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Fluid Fauquier Falcons dismantle Liberty volleyball team in 3 games

Thursday, Sep. 18 | By Jeff Malmgren
The Fauquier Falcons beat Liberty, 3-0, Thursday at home in Warrenton to improve to 5-0 in Conference 22. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Not even water is as fluid as Fauquier's volleyball team.

The Falcons moved quickly and smoothly from defense to offense Thursday and swept away the Liberty Eagles, 23-11, 25-22, 25-17, at home in Warrenton.

Passing precisely all night, the ball flowed seamlessly from Fauquier's back row to its setter and then through the hands of its many hitters. Liberty continually struggled track the ball and react in time to alter its path, so the Falcons racked up 38 kills in only three games.

"We were a second behind every movement" the Falcons made, Liberty coach Lauren Bosso said. "Our blocks weren't up."

The Falcons' offense certainly looked diverse and unpredictable. Fauquier setter Rachel Keithley amassed 35 assists in the match by spreading the ball all over the court, which helped the Falcons remain undefeated in Conference 22 play at 5-0 (7-4 overall).

"They weren't just standard outside- and back-sets," said Bosso, whose team fell to 3-2. "They're the first team that has really used a lot of different sets on us. … We weren't able to adjust."

Fauquier used a deep playbook Thursday, often keeping the Eagles on their heals with shoots and slides.

The Falcons also determined the pace of play. During Game One, for example, Fauquier decided the outcome of all but seven points – ending the other 27 points with either a kill or error.

"They were playing in tempo, in system, pretty much 95 percent of the time," Fauquier coach Diana Story said of the Falcons. "We passed the ball extremely well out of serve receive, which helped us keep our offense running very smoothly."

The Falcons also frequently varied their point of attack to find openings in Liberty's defense. In fact, five different Fauquier players finished the match with at least five kills.

"I don't want to be predictable," Keithley said of her sets. "Then the blockers have to read me. … I have confidence in all" the hitters.

Katie Crofford led Fauquier with 10 kills while fellow outside hitter Leoni Roennecke had nine and right side hitter Sara Peerlinick had five. Middle hitters Brittany Rininger and Ashley Newman helped open up the court for those outside hitters by nailing down seven and six kills respectively.

Keithley conducted that eclectic attack with grace.

"Rachel's moving the ball for them extremely well," Story said. "She can give it, at any moment, to just about anybody, which is nice. We haven't had that in a long time. … Divvy the ball out to multiple people."

That ability has given the Falcons high hopes for the rest of this season. Halfway through the Conference 22 schedule, they look like the favorites to win a title.

"I think we can definitely win conference," Keithley said.

"Yeah, if we play like this every game," Crofford said.

Liberty, meanwhile, will try to regroup after losing its second consecutive match.

Against Fauquier, the Eagles never led in Game One or Game Three, and they led for only one point in Game Two, 7-6.

"They didn't show up," Bosso said. "Their minds weren't right.

"I know it's a big rivalry and I think sometimes, mentally, they get psyched out," she said. "We've got to find a way to get around that."

The Eagles played Fauquier much closer last season, losing matches 3-2 and 3-1.

"Last year Liberty was really good competition, so I think we stepped up our game because of that," Keithley said.

"It's just a game that we wanted a lot," Rininger said.

They Falcons certainly showed that in Game One. They finished that game with an incredible 16 kills while Liberty had only two.

"We've hit well, but not like tonight," Story said. "That's the best we've played all year."

In that first game, the Falcons had only two passing errors and three hitting errors. They got good swings on the ball thanks to a passing rating of 2.6, produced by the likes of Rachael Hudson, Leann Brown and Caia Webb in Fauquier's back row.

"Defense was on point tonight," Keithley said. "They were really consistent."

Liberty's passing wasn't nearly as crisp. The Eagles struggled to get their hitters set up for swings and they often had to pass the ball over to Fauquier. Setter Morgan Lee and middle hitter Emily Fitzwater also struggled to get their timing down on hitting attempts.

"We were rushing up on the ball. We weren't being patient," Bosso said of the Eagles. "They looked like they were in straight jackets. It seemed that they were too tense, too nervous."

Liberty finished the match with only 15 kills. Diane McDaniel had four while Sara Guerra and Brittanie King had three each. Fitzwater had only one kill, but added two blocks while Guerra had five aces.

For Fauquier, Crofford had three blocks and three aces while Rininger and Keithley had two blocks each and Newman had two aces.

Newman actually had a hand in five of the final seven points Fauquier scored in Game Three after Liberty had tied the score, 14-14. The Eagles appeared poised to take a lead as Guerra elevated and took a hard swing, but Brown dug up the ball and Keithley got under it to set Crofford up for a Fauquier kill.

The Falcons won the next two points and then Newman got a pair of kills and a stuff block to make their lead 20-14. A few points later, at 22-15, Newman picked up another kill and an ace, eliminating all hope for Liberty.

"If feels good," Story said. "Just a really, really good win."

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