Falcon volleyball team finds new life in second half of season

Mackenzie Hezel’s block isn’t enough to stop Lady Knight Whitney Naber’s kill from rolling over the net. Anne Madsen joined Hezel for the block attempt. Below, Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown digs a serve by the Lady Knights.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Mackenzie Hezel’s block isn’t enough to stop Lady Knight Whitney Naber’s kill from rolling over the net. Anne Madsen joined Hezel for the block attempt. Below, Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown digs a serve by the Lady Knights.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — South Whidbey’s shot at upsetting one of Washington’s top volleyball teams fell short.

The Falcons narrowly lost to the Lady Knights, who won 25-22, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18 on Tuesday. King’s had only lost two sets in its undefeated season prior to the match with South Whidbey. A couple of held serves and kills here or there, and the Falcons could have truly challenged the Lady Knights for the first time all season.

“I’m just really happy we took a game away from them,” said Falcon junior setter Alexa Hess, who played the entirety of the third set and assisted 14 points.

Though the match was a loss, it was South Whidbey’s best performance of the season against one of the best teams in the state. South Whidbey turned around from its previous loss to King’s in three sets (25-17, 25-13, 25-14).

“I hope that they’re proud of themselves and that they put up a fight,” said Falcon head coach Mandy Jones. “Our confidence level was up, we were serving tough. We were right in it.”

Early in the match King’s was in control. The Lady Knights pulled ahead from a 6-6 tie to lead 15-8, when Jones called a timeout to regroup her Falcons. It came at a pivotal point after the Falcons made back-to-back errors. That 60-second break gave South Whidbey all it needed to try a comeback, as the Falcons scrapped their way to trail 20-18.

“I think we came out with a lot of fight because we wanted to win and knew we could take them (the Lady Knights),” said Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown.

An ace by junior setter Meagan Longdon cut the lead to 22-21 and a Lady Knights’ error tied the set 22-22. King’s regained the lead on a kill, then rolled to victory on aces by junior hitter Alysanne Van Dyke, who led all players with 17 kills, six digs and three aces.

South Whidbey controlled the lead through the early points in the second set. The Falcons soared to one of their few leads at 12-7 on a kill by junior hitter Mackenzie Hezel. King’s head coach Jeff Fransen used a timeout to settle his Lady Knights, who scored seven unanswered points to lead the Falcons 14-12. The Lady Knights’ offense found its rhythm and scored five points on kills and an ace to win 25-19.

“When they would miss a serve, we wouldn’t be able to hold on to the ball,” Jones said.

The third set was all about fight, and South Whidbey battled for every point it scored all the way to a 25-22 win. King’s and South Whidbey traded the lead five times until the Falcons gained the edge at 14-13 on a kill by sophomore hitter Abby Hodson. Brown’s dig on a hard hit sailed back over the net and fell to the court, and Hezel drilled a kill to lead 16-13.

“I was just trying to get my passes up for the setters,” said Brown, who finished the match with 14 digs and two aces. “That didn’t always work. Sometimes I had passes that went right back over the net.”

Fransen used another timeout to great effect as the Lady Knights tied the set 16-16. But consecutive errors gave South Whidbey the lead again, forcing King’s to rally to 18-18.

South Whidbey tried to extend its lead, but King’s came back to tie 22-22 on an ace by senior libero Haylie Dods, who tallied 14 digs and three aces. Errors brought the Lady Knights back, this time within one point of losing the set and missing out on a sweep. King’s called a timeout and rallied for another point, but Falcon sophomore hitter Anne Madsen won the set on a kill, assisted by Hess, 25-23.

“We found out that when we talk, we get the points,” Hess said of the Falcons’ on-court chatter.

King’s found its fight again in the fourth set. The Lady Knights broke a tie on a Falcon error at 8-7, then rolled to a 13-7 lead. South Whidbey next came closest to the lead at 18-14 on another long dig by Brown that dropped. King’s offense was too much for South Whidbey and went on to win 25-19.

South Whidbey was led by senior hitter Hannah Calderwood with 12 kills. Hezel added 12 digs and nine kills; Madsen finished with seven kills and three blocks; Hodson had seven kills and two blocks.

On the road Thursday in Duvall, Cedarcrest swept South Whidbey 3-0. The Falcons fought for the first two sets, 25-18 and 26-24, but struggled in the third set and lost 25-15. Longdon had 22 assists and Hezel led the Falcons with eight kills. South Whidbey is sixth in the league at 3-6 in Cascade Conference matches and 3-7 overall; Cedarcrest is in second place at 8-1 in conference and overall games.

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