Sports

Falcon volleyball team rallies, but comes up short against Mount Baker in district play-in

South Whidbey High School watched its playoff aspirations slip away in a 3-1 loss to Mount Baker earlier this week.

“My team played really well,” said South Whidbey volleyball head coach Mandy Jones. “I’m very proud of them.”

Mount Baker won the first two games, 25-17 and 26-24. Jones said hitting and serving errors contributed to the Falcons’ loss, and she took partial blame. She encouraged her team to “serve tough,” but saw her team trying to do too much, and scaled back their serves after consistent serving errors.

The Falcons came back and won the third game, 25-22. The Mountaineers used the Falcons’ errors to their advantage, however, and won the fourth game, 25-19.

“Even though we didn’t win, it was still a good way to go out,” Jones said. “Because we didn’t just roll over.”

Jones changed her preparation approach for this game. All season she had instructed her team on the opponents’ tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

For the match with Mount Baker, Jones opted against preparation to avoid the jitters. Instead of worrying her team about the opponent, she wanted her players to focus on playing to their potential.

“I think it helped, because we weren’t as nervous because we didn’t worry about their reputation,” Linden Firethorne said.

Brittany Wood had 31 digs, three kills and two aces for South Whidbey. Fellow junior Firethorne had 23 kills, five blocks and one ace.

Jones switched her front line and moved sophomore Hannah Calderwood to outside hitter, and Kelsey Taylor to the inside. Calderwood had six blocks, and in Taylor’s last volleyball game for South Whidbey, she had seven kills and two blocks. Senior setter Alissa Coupe added 24 assists for her team.

“We ran really quick plays,” said Firethorne, which allowed her to beat the blocks.

After losing to Granite Falls the Thursday prior in a tiebreak match, South Whidbey had to travel north to play against a new team instead of playing at home. The winner would continue its playoff run against top-seeded Burlington-Edison.

“I think Granite [Falls] was the hardest match for me,” Firethorne said. “We really expected to win, so it was sad.”

South Whidbey High School hosted the District 1 south regional games.

With the season finished, Jones will go into her fourth year as South Whidbey’s head coach next season. She explained that building a competitive program takes three to five years, and she expects next season to be a turning point.

The junior class she has now should return seven players who Jones has coached since seventh grade at Langley Middle School.

To build on the team dynamic, Jones encouraged her players to join club teams and stay active with volleyball for most of the offseason.

She’ll return to team-bonding exercises and team camps over the summer, too, all in an effort to jump start the midseason turnaround the Falcons had this year.

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