Sports

Firethorne makes Cascade Conference volleyball first team

Linden Firethorne was voted to the Cascade Conference volleyball first team. The junior outside hitter set a school record with 28 kills in a match and had 251 kills in the season. Said one teammate of Firethorne, “She was our offense.” - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Linden Firethorne was voted to the Cascade Conference volleyball first team. The junior outside hitter set a school record with 28 kills in a match and had 251 kills in the season. Said one teammate of Firethorne, “She was our offense.”
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Linden Firethorne’s opponents on the volleyball court have found she lives up to her name.

Her fiery spikes at the net are intimidating, to say the least. And her opponents may well call her a figurative thorn in their side, and she knows it.

“I love just smacking the ball down on people,” she said.

By the second game this past season, the South Whidbey High School junior realized that other teams aimed to stop her.

“As a player, it made me work a lot harder, just knowing they all wanted to stop me,” Firethorne said. “I like the challenge, though.”

That’s part of the reason Firethorne was voted to the first team as a junior (one of four on first team). Teams remembered her from last season and made sure to set defenses around her this season.

“I’m really excited and I’m really happy,” said Firethorne of her postseason accolade. “My goal was to make first team.”

Last season, Firethorne was voted to the second all-conference team.

As a member of the first team, she’s in good company this year. Two juniors play for King’s High School, which finished second in the 1A state championship. Hannah Linsenmayer, the other junior, played for Archbishop Murphy High School at libero, and was the player of the year. Two of the three seniors played for Archbishop Murphy and the third senior played for Lakewood. Firethorne is the only member of the first team whose team did not advance to district playoffs.

The award was not a shock to some.

“She deserves to named first team,” said Falcon volleyball head coach Mandy Jones.

Even though the team’s record wasn’t what Firethorne had hoped for, she praised her team’s chemistry, especially considering the team lost six seniors and had an entirely different lineup. The players’ ability to communicate and work well together helped them through a self-described disappointing season.

“I think as a team we got along really well,” she said.

The explosive hitter is an astute student. Firethorne surpassed her mathematics requirement and is in pre-calculus with plans to take calculus next year, and she’s in a couple of advanced- placement courses, too. History is her favorite subject, particularly ancient Western civilizations like Greece and Rome.

She expects to attend college, but is undecided on where or which athletic division yet.

Volleyball figures into those plans; it’s her “ultimate” goal, after all. Even so, she wants to find the right fit academically. But don’t worry about a time-zone change.

“I’m definitely a West Coast girl,” she said.

The 5-foot-11 outside hitter credits her improved play for her move up from second team to first team. Jones credited her height and a “natural talent for the game.”

“Her approach is perfect,” Jones said. “Her form when she hits is dead on.”

Coach Jones was able to build an offense around Firethorne and junior Brittany Wood. That wasn’t the game plan heading into the season.

“She was our offense,” Wood said of Firethorne. “She was the only person who could consistently get us kills.”

Jones explained the bulk and burden of the offense fell to Firethorne because of her consistent productivity.

“Linden really had to step up,” Jones said. “Without Linden, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did.”

Firethorne made her mark on the 2010 volleyball season, and is likely going to end up on the Wall of Fame soon after she graduates in 2012.

Firethorne set a record for the most kills in a match with 28 against Lakewood, and has the second most kills in a season with 251. The 457 attack attempts and 56 kill percentage were both tops on her team. The next two attempts leaders had a combined 505 attack attempts.

According to Firethorne, her improved play stemmed from playing with a club team during the offseason.

During her time with Northshore Juniors, she competed with other talented girls from areas across Western Washington, which not only improved her floor game, but also her mental toughness.

She credited Northshore coach Robyn Filimaua with her improvement from sophomore year to junior year.

Defensively, she led the Falcons with 94 blocks and was part of Jones’ reliable and “scrappy” defense.

Jones presented Firethorne with the coach’s award at the end of the season banquet.

“It was nice to see the coaches recognize my dedication,” Firethorne said.

The coach and player have been together for three years, and have learned to shorthand their on-court communication.

“She can give me a look or I can give her a look, and we both know what we have to do,” Firethorne said. “We communicate well and don’t really need to say much.”

“Except for sometimes when I have a stern talking-to.”

Mistakes by Firethorne were a rare occurrence, however, so Jones said she didn’t have much to correct.

When she made a mistake, Jones insisted, Firethorne didn’t dwell on it and corrected it herself.

The junior placed great expectations on herself for next season. She wants to continue improving her offense and increase the amount of blocks per game she has.

“She’s got great potential,” Jones said.

For the ancient Greece buff, perhaps history will repeat for Firethorne and avoid tragedy next season as she seeks to make first team all-conference again and help South Whidbey advance to the playoffs.

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