LANGLEY — Focus, fight and grit launched the South Whidbey volleyball team to a third-set rally that swept Lakewood.
For three sets Thursday, the Cougars forced the Falcons to win points. And for three sets, the Falcons found a way to put the ball down. That included the come-from-behind win in the third set that gave South Whidbey its second sweep of the week, 25-22, 25-19, 26-24.
“It feels awesome, from not winning very much in the beginning of the season to coming out and pounding it.”
Lakewood held the ball with a five-point lead at 19-15 when South Whidbey took a timeout. Junior blocker Rachel Reinecke punctuated the Cougar’s roaring edge 20-15 and seemed to be their turning point. The Falcons kept fighting — a tip by junior setter Meagan Longdon, a kill by sophomore hitter Anne Madsen, a couple Cougar errors and an ace by Longdon - and rattled off five unanswered points to tie the third set 20-20. Mackenzie Hezel scored one of her 10 kills for the one-point lead, 21-20.
Cougar head coach Tasha Kryger called a timeout. It stalled the Falcons’ tempo, and out of the timeout Longdon served into the net for a 21-21 tie. Lakewood (6-5 Cascade Conference; 6-5 overall) surged from there and looked like it would win the set on an ace by junior Kendall O’Kinsella and a block by senior Danielle Small. South Whidbey called another timeout.
“I just said that they need to refocus and remember how hard they were playing earlier,” said Falcon head coach Mandy Jones.
The Falcons secured a free ball on a soft Cougar pass. Longdon set the ball high to her right. The previously raucous crowd of the Big Blue Faithful fell silent. They watched Hezel rise and slap the ball into the back corner for a kill that cut Lakewood’s lead to 23-22, then the pink-clad crowd erupted.
“Our passes were great,” Longdon said. “Everything was pretty much on.”
Lakewood won the next point for a two-point lead at 24-22, one point from forcing a fourth set. But South Whidbey (5-6 Cascade Conference; 5-7 overall) would not be denied its third sweep of the season. The Falcons dove, lunged and dug the ball on a rally ended on a kill by Madsen. Still, South Whidbey trailed one point. A Cougar error into the net tied the set, 24-24. Falcon senior middle blocker Hannah Calderwood sealed the match with a kill for the 25-24 lead, then a block for the 26-24 victory.
“Meagan worked her butt off, she got her sets up perfectly,” Calderwood said. “I knew we needed it. Under pressure, we all work better.”
The third-set rally capped a close contest between the Cascade Conference schools. In the previous meeting, Lakewood won in a five-set tiebreaker. At home on Dig for the Cure night Thursday, South Whidbey started and finished with an offensive flourish.
There were five lead changes in the first set. Hezel put South Whidbey ahead 16-15 with a kill, followed by three aces from junior Amelia Weeks. A kill by Calderwood put the Falcons on top 20-15. The Cougars crept back to 21-20, but couldn’t tie the set as the Falcons won on a tip by Hezel.
“We came out tonight wanting to have fun and playing for a good cause,” Jones said.
“We wanted to go out and play for them. Having something to play for that’s such a good cause put all the nerves aside, and that worked for us.”
South Whidbey led from the first point and never allowed a tie in the second set. The Falcons jumped to a nine-point lead at 20-11, but the Cougars roared back as close as 21-17. Calderwood led the finish with three of her team-high 12 kills.
“We played smart, we eliminated a lot of our mental errors,” Calderwood said.
“I really want to thank our fans, because every time we have a crowd, we get that much more pumped up, we yell that much louder, we play that much better.”
The win came after a three-set sweep Tuesday against Whidbey Island rival Coupeville. South Whidbey had swept only two matches this season, both against Coupeville (2-10 Cascade Conference; 3-10 overall). In the second rivalry match, the Falcons won 25-15, 25-17 before having to fight off the Wolves 26-24 in the third set. Calderwood led the Falcons with 11 kills and two blocks. Madsen scored nine kills, four digs and two aces. Hezel added seven kills, and Longdon set 15 assists.