Senior moments: A look back by the 2011 Falcon seniors

Falcon volleyball seniors Molly Rawls, Brittany Wood, Justina Mackie-Timmerman, Emily Houck, Linden Firethorne and Jessica Manca led South Whidbey to a 9-5 conference record and a run in the District 1 tournament.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon volleyball seniors Molly Rawls, Brittany Wood, Justina Mackie-Timmerman, Emily Houck, Linden Firethorne and Jessica Manca led South Whidbey to a 9-5 conference record and a run in the District 1 tournament.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The 2011 Falcon volleyball team had its best season in three years.

South Whidbey's bump-set-spike girls finished second in the Cascade Conference 2A division behind Archbishop Murphy (third overall behind King's and AMHS), qualified for the Northwest District 1 tournament and were a few points away from qualifying for the 2A State Volleyball Tournament in Olympia.

Here, the six seniors reflect on the season that was and could have been.

What city do you live in?

Houck: Freeland.

Wood: I live in Langley.

Manca: I live in Langley.

Firethorne: Clinton.

Mackie-Timmerman: Clinton.

How many years did you play varsity volleyball?

Houck: Two years.

Wood: I have played varsity for seven years including middle school.

Manca: This is my first year playing high school volleyball (I played in middle school), and I played varsity then and this year.

Firethorne: Four years.

Mackie-Timmerman: Two.

Where did you first play?

Houck: At Langley Middle School.

Wood: I first played at Langley Middle School.

Manca: I first played in seventh grade for Mandy at LMS.

Firethorne: Langley Middle School.

Mackie-Timmerman: Langley Middle School - COUGAR POWER.

How many years have you played organized volleyball?

Houck: Seven years.

Wood: I’ve played seven years organized volleyball.

Manca: I have played middle and right side hitter. This year I mostly played right side, but occasionally played middle when needed.

Firethorne: Six years of school, two years of club.

Mackie-Timmerman: Six.

What positions have you played, and which did you play this season?

Emily Houck: I’ve played setter and right side hitter all seven years.

Brittany Wood: I have played all positions besides middle and I played libero and outside this year.

Jessica Manca: I have played middle and right side hitter. This year I mostly played right side, but occasionally played middle when needed.

Linden Firethorne: I have always been a middle hitter.

Justina Mackie-Timmerman: Libero, defensive specialist.

Molly Rawls: I played setter for three years, and then I finished my last few years playing outside hitter.

What was your favorite game of the season and career? Why?

Houck: My favorite game of the season was when we played Lakewood at home because it was my personal best game when I got 11 aces.

Wood: My favorite game was when we beat King’s this year since it hasn’t been done in years, but my favorite match was the district game against Lynden.

Manca: I’m not sure what my favorite game was, but I loved the close games where there was lots of energy and rallies; it’s great when we all come together as a team.

Firethorne: Our final match against Archbishop Murphy, because I think this was the best game we have played all season and every one of us seniors gave it everything we had.

Mackie-Timmerman: The game against Granite (at their home), because not only did I get to see my friends from there, but I scored the winning point on an ace.

Rawls: My favorite game would have to be junior year when we beat Coupeville in five games after losing the first two. That is the moment when we knew we were “the comeback team.”  I’ve never seen Mandy so excited before.

What is your fondest memory (non-competition) from this season? Why?

Houck: All the bus rides and having “intense” conversations with Brittany, Hayley (Newman) Justina and Linden. We would always stare at random people and laugh at everything.

Wood: My fondest memory is the bus rides because I enjoyed the very interesting conversations with Emily, Hayley, Justina and Linden; they make me laugh.

Manca: I love all of the memories I made with this group of girls; we had lots of laughs during practices and on the bus.

Firethorne: All of our conversations during practice; nothing is quite as hilarious.

Mackie-Timmerman: Everyday was a memory, I won’t forget anything from this season — the girls, Mandy (Jones), Meggan (Lubach) and Jim (West) are all amazing. I can’t pinpoint one time that was the fondest.

Rawls: My fondest memories are just our hilarious conversations we have during practices. We really are like a family and talk about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.

How have you improved since the first year you played?

Houck: I’ve become a better player all around.

Wood: I have improved since seventh grade from playing volleyball all year round in club and pushing myself to be better.

Manca: It was fun getting back into the game, and I’m thankful that my team had patience with me. Since this was the first year I’ve played since eighth grade, I would have to say that I think just about everything improved this season.

Firethorne: I have immensely improved my hitting, blocking, passing, and basically every aspect of volleyball.

Mackie-Timmerman: I’ve become more of a leader and become more confident in my skills, which has pushed me to set my standards and goals even higher, improving my skills even more.

Rawls: I’ve improved since the first years playing, mostly in a mental aspect. I can now focus when I need to and make smart decisions. I think I greatly improved as a whole.

What is your pregame ritual (song, meditation, jokes, etc.)?

Houck: Getting pumped up listening to music and drinking an iced white chocolate mocha.

Wood: My pregame ritual would be one drink of coffee like two hours before, then eventually get my hair braided by Meagan (Longdon), then as a team we would mentally prepare and hold hands and close our eyes and say “together.”

Firethorne: We all stand in a circle and hold hands and say “together.” And then I give Emily Houck a big squeeze!

Mackie-Timmerman: I love to sing, usually country or some metal on the occasion. I also “make my list, and check it twice.”

Rawls: Our team had a pregame ritual, we all mentally prepare and think our own thoughts. Then we all hold hands for a moment of silence and say, “Together,” out loud. It really brings us together.

Why did this year’s team outperform previous Falcon volleyball squads?

Houck: I think we outperformed previous Falcon volleyball squads because all of us were close and friends which helped us have fun on the court.

Wood: We outplayed the previous teams because we worked harder and found what worked and stuck with it.

Firethorne: I think this is the best we have been out of the four years I have played here.

Mackie-Timmerman: Because we are so close outside of the court, it is easy to go out and play together. It’s so natural. When anyone had any troubles we knew we always had the team to rely on. Of course skill has to do with it, but on top of that mentally we are all connected in some way. We trust each other and know how each other plays and know how to compensate for each other extremely well. And to top it all off, we all wanted it. And to win, everyone has to have the same goal and the same heart, which we all had and still have.

Rawls: I think that this year we have outperformed previous teams at South Whidbey because we were all really close on and off the court. Volleyball is such a mental game, it’s crazy, and if you don’t trust one another you will not make it anywhere. This seriously helped us, and I really believe this is what made such a difference. Besides we all wanted it so bad!

What is your “Back to the Future” game/moment?

Houck: If I could go back in time I would have tried harder to beat Coupeville when we played them for a second. I feel like if I brought the team together we could have beat them.

Wood: If I could go back I would: one, go back and beat Coupeville; two, in the last AMHS game in the last rotation when we were up 11-7 and got stuck in that one rotation, I would have put Linden in back row for me then I would have gone in the back row outside so we could have gotten out of the rotation and won that game!

Firethorne: I would go back to Senior Night. We should have gone out onto the court with everything we had and taken the first game.

Mackie-Timmerman: I would go back to all of the games where I was down and bring up my energy; because that is a role that I’ve learned is important. And I feel that if I went in with a better attitude, even if I only picked up one person, that person could help one person causing a domino effect bringing up our whole team. We feed off of each other, so every person has to be up and ready or, as some games will show, we don’t play to our full potential.

Rawls: If I could go back in time, I would go back to Senior Night. It was our last time to play on the courts of South Whidbey and I wish we would have destroyed Archbishop Murphy, we were all capable of it and I really wish we would have made it happen. It would have been such an amazing way to end our volleyball careers.

What is your favorite quote or saying from Falcon head coach Mandy Jones?

Wood: My favorite quote from Mandy is when she said to Molly, “Looks like you had a long night!”

Manca: I probably shouldn’t say my favorite Mandy quote … but she does have a way of putting things into words that helps us understand.

Firethorne: “Together we stand, together we fall, together we win, and winners take all.”

Mackie-Timmerman: She’s an amazing coach, and everything she said was important and/or funny to listen to. Also, being our coach for so long made our bond as players and coach very close . . . making the best quotes inappropriate to be printed. I love her and wish her the best for future seasons to come. She brings out the best in all of her players, and will have a successful team, even if others don’t believe, she always does. And that’s the best quality in any coach.

Rawls: My favorite quote from Mandy is something she said to us the first time she coached us in seventh grade; “Together we stand, together we fall, together we win, and winners take all.”

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