By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Central had lost seven straight volleyball matches going into Monday night's Conference 28 tournament quarterfinals at Warren County. And the Falcons had lost to the Wildcats in both of the teams' regular season meetings.
But on Monday night, something clicked for Central.
The No. 6 Falcons used one of their most complete efforts of the season to upset third-seeded Warren County with a 3-0 (25-23, 26-24, 25-17) sweep, sending Central to today's semifinal match at William Monroe, which begins at 6 p.m.
"I guess that if we lost this game, it would've been the last game for the seniors. We're not ready to be done with volleyball yet. We want to keep on going," Falcons senior Tiffany Riggs said.
Riggs, who finished with a match-high six blocks to go along with three kills, was just one of a handful of seniors to make a huge impact for the Falcons (6-16) on Monday night.
Rebecca Truban finished with five kills and three aces, Kyla Strother had three kills, three aces and a block, and Katelyn Foltz added four kills and two aces to complement her countless digs and assists to help the Falcons seal the sweep.
"The senior girls, they have to determine how far we go in this conference. The whole team does, but especially these seniors," Falcons head coach Christy Barb said. "They need to step up, and that's what they did tonight."
For Warren County (12-12), Monday's conference tournament opener was a frustrating end to the season. The Wildcats, which had boasted one of the better offensive attacks in the Bull Run District all season, simply couldn't seem to find a rhythm.
Junior Arie Roth led Warren County with a match-high eight kills, and junior Autumn Troxell -- who has served as the Wildcats' spark plug this year -- was limited to just seven kills and three blocks. Warren County also committed 12 attack errors.
"I think we were just having an off night tonight," Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said. "Central came up with some great intensity, and they moved the ball well. We were just flat tonight."
The match started out as a game of runs, as Central senior Jamison Cook tallied a kill and Riggs scored a pair of blocks that sparked a 5-0 spurt for the Falcons that gave them a 10-6 advantage.
Warren County answered and tied the set at 10-all, but Cook fired two aces to help the Falcons gain a 17-12 lead.
The Wildcats again responded with two kills by Roth and a kill apiece from senior Brooke Post (five total kills) and Crystal Utter that helped tie the set at 17-all.
Central took a 23-21 lead on another block by Riggs later in the set, and a few exchanges later, Foltz faked a pass on a tip attempt that found the floor to give the Falcons a 25-23 win and a 1-0 lead.
The second set played out similarly, as Central broke a 6-all tie with a 9-3 run to take a 15-9 advantage. Warren County rallied to take a 21-19 lead following a kill by Troxell, but the Falcons regained the momentum as an ace by Strother and a block by Riggs gave Central a 23-21 lead.
The Wildcats tied the set at 24 on a kill by Abby Wilson, but Foltz followed up with a spectacular one-handed dig on a kill attempt by Troxell that fell to the floor to regain a 25-24 lead for Central. Mary Wakeman then delivered an ace to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead.
"I feel that we made some mistakes at some critical moments during the game, and Central definitely never gave up. They moved their feet and were able to capitalize on our moments of weakness," Putnam said.
Warren County opened the third set with an ace by Kylee Eyler (match-high five aces), but that would be the last time the Wildcats would hold a lead this season.
The third set was tied briefly at 13-all following a rare Falcons service error, but Central closed out the match on a 12-4 run and capped the sweep on junior Caelyn Moylan's fourth kill of the set.
Moylan led the Falcons with six kills on Monday.
"I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of how they came together. I'm proud of how they put everything together," Barb said. "Tonight our serves, our passing, our setting, our hits -- everything came together. And now is the time for it to come together."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD