Falcon volleyball team falls to Granite Falls in home opener

Kelsey Taylor, a senior middle hitter/right hitter with the Falcons, keeps a volley alive in action against Granite Falls. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Kelsey Taylor, a senior middle hitter/right hitter with the Falcons, keeps a volley alive in action against Granite Falls.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — These Tigers aren’t so tame this year.

The South Whidbey Falcons volleyball team opened the season with a loss at home to Granite Falls, 3-1.

South Whidbey came out with enthusiasm and looked relaxed, but the Tigers opened the first game on a three-point run before the Falcons answered.

It wasn’t enough though, and Granite Falls ran to a 14-5 lead before South Whidbey head coach Mandy Jones called a time-out to focus her group.

“We had passing and serving problems,” Jones said.

After the time-out, the Falcons regrouped and crept back into the first game. Point-by-point, the Falcons slowly built a 16-14 lead before Granite Falls head coach Mark Neuman responded with his own time-out.

It worked. South Whidbey couldn’t hang on to the lead and lost 25-19.

“These guys took us last year [in both games], so it feels good to get a win,” Neuman said.

South Whidbey faced a seasoned squad. The Tigers didn’t graduate a player from last season’s team, and Granite Falls boasts six seniors and six juniors on varsity.

Jones was baffled by her team’s display, and said she hadn’t seen them perform like this during summer league play or fall practices.

“Everyone was nervous,” said Molly Rawls, a junior outside hitter for the Falcons. “Now we’ve got the jitters out of the way.”

Neuman anticipated that Falcons junior Brittany Wood would be a threat, and wanted his team to avoid hitting to her. Even so, Wood led her team with 15 digs.

“We just focused on not giving her the ball very much,” Neuman said. “That’s when we started to be more successful.”

Rawls said the team rallied together between games, and it showed in the second game.

“But once we get down, it’s hard to get back up,” she said.

The Falcons gained its first lead in the second game at 10-9, and exchanged points until Rawls served at 16-16. Rawls stretched the Falcon lead to 19-16 behind three aces and a kill by junior Linden Firethorne. South Whidbey forced extra-point play when it tied the game 24-24. Rawls put away the game on straight aces, 28-26.

Firethorne led the Falcons with eight kills, but Monesa Moore from Granite Falls led the game with 17 kills.

“We should have been blocking her more,” Jones said.

Granite Falls controlled Game Three, even though South Whidbey made a run but eventually lost 25-21.

The Tigers poured it on in the final game, and cruised past South Whidbey 25-8.

“I was expecting to do a lot better,” Rawls said. “I was expecting to be a lot better as a team and not lose by so much.”

Senior Alissa Coupe led the Falcons with 13 assists, but was bested by Granite Falls junior Breanna White with 14 assists. Tigers senior libero Katie Chritensen led all players in the game with 23 digs.

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