For a teenager, four years can seem like an eternity, and that’s what it has felt like to the seniors of the Fallston girls’ volleyball team.
In 2007, 2008 and 2009, the Cougars fell one win short of claiming regional titles and heading to the state tournament, making the mere presence in the state semifinals a sort of fairytale.
But not only did the Cougars take down a 2010 2A East region title to seal a spot in the big dance, but they will be on the floor for the tournament’s final song after beating Poolesville on Thursday in three sets, 25-8, 25-18 and 25-18.
“We just made volleyball history,” Fallston senior Shannon Webb exclaimed. “Fallston volleyball has never gone this far before, and it feels great to be the first team doing it.”
Dominating their way through game one, the Cougars jumped out to a 6-1 lead and exchanged points with the Falcons to 17-5 before freshman Anna Holehouse served four of the final five points to claim the game.
Helping Holehouse with the final scores were Webb and junior Rachael Holehouse, with Rachael ripping the final spike to ricochet off a Falcon block for the 25-8 final.
The Falcons tightened the Cougar leads in the second game, forcing five ties and holding the lead once in the game, and played to another five ties in game three with two leads of their own before Fallston got the better of them.
“We were practicing reloading our offense this week knowing that their defense was their strong point,” said Fallston coach Alison Winaker, who has reached the state finals in her first year. “They were never going to lie down and let us win a point, and I applaud their efforts.”
“I don’t think there was any real change,” Webb said of the Cougars’ performance in the final two games. “I don’t think we lost intensity, we just maybe played laid back a little and were trying to have a little fun. We just wanted to enjoy the moment while we were here.”
The Cougars can enjoy all the moments they have witnessed this season, and Coach Winaker attributes most of it to the “solid volleyball players’ the team has.
“I inherited an excellent team. I am vested in the program as a former player and JV coach, and to see them execute the way that they are is thrilling,” Winaker said. “I feel like in this run that they have had the last few years, and hopefully the next couple, we have had solid volleyball players and not just athletic girls.
“Their knowledge of the game, the skill they have and their intensity in practice that carries over to the game is what is making the difference in the program.”
Fallston has seen a difference for the better, losing regional championship games to Reservoir in 2007, Centennial in 2008 and, most recently, North Caroline in 2009, all of which was part of a learning process for the team.
“We fell to North Caroline, and they were an excellent team,” Rachael Holehouse said, with an emphasis on excellent. “We have come from that and learned from that, and we have become better. Now we can do it; we made it.”
The Falcons ended a terrific season at 17-1, and the players on the team say that the loss in no way defines the season they have had.
“This game doesn’t change our whole season,” Falcons’ Christine Antonsen said. “We were undefeated, 17-0, and people didn’t expect us to be that good, and we definitely proved them wrong. This was one of my favorite seasons ever, because it was great to be with the team and see it grow.”
Coach Winaker is planning to work hard in Friday’s practice before the Cougars’ showdown on Monday, but she is also telling her girls to acknowledge what they have already achieved.
“I am telling them to enjoy every moment, appreciate every swing you get and play out every point like it’s your last,” Winaker said. “I know that this group has the ability to do what has never been done at Fallston high school.
“We are going to try and reset some things from what we see [in the Marriotts Ridge game], and prepare as best we can without changing our game too much.”
Fallston will play Marriotts Ridge, Monday, at 6 p.m. inside the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
Fallston 3, Poolesville 0
Fallston 25 25 25
Poolesville 8 18 18