LANGLEY — Mandy Jones’ volleyball teams at South Whidbey High School have long had self-described “scrappy” defenses.
It was the Falcons’ scrappy offense that won them their final home match against the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats on Senior Night. The Falcons rallied from an uninspired first set loss to win 3-1 (16-25, 25-23, 25-17, 25-17), the first time since Jones has been head coach that South Whidbey volleyball has defeated Archbishop Murphy.
“I knew we could win,” said Falcon senior hitter Aly Chapman. “We were planning many points before the end to run out onto the court.”
Hannah Calderwood, South Whidbey’s only other senior, was integral in the victory. She won the final point and collapsed to the her knees as her teammates surrounded her.
“We played like we knew it was our last time together,” Calderwood said. “My heart is beating really fast. I have an adrenaline rush and feel kind of shaky.
“I couldn’t have ended my amazing four years playing on this court any better than beating Archbishop Murphy with that last point.”
Victory was especially sweet for the seniors. They remembered losing three matches to Archbishop Murphy last season, including a five-set tiebreaker that sent the Wildcats to the state 2A tournament and ended the Falcons’ season. Couple those memories with an earlier loss this year to the Wildcats (7-5 Cascade Conference; 7-6 overall) in five sets, and winning as handily they did resulted in pure joy for the Falcons.
“Last year when we lost it was by a couple points,” Chapman said. “This time it wasn’t a couple points. We killed them.”
Offensively, the Falcons (7-5; 7-6 overall) were slow to start. In the first set, the Wildcats roared to a 7-0 lead and never let up en route to a 25-16.
“I don’t know what it is when we first get going,” Jones said. “I think we have to get out a bunch of spider webs and kinks. Once we do, I’ve noticed lately that we stay on it and keep building on top of it.
“I wasn’t worried. They just needed to get through that first round.”
Archbishop Murphy was poised to strike in the second set with an early lead. But the Falcons crept back on some Wildcat errors and eventually took their first lead of the match at 8-7 on a block by junior hitter Mackenzie Hezel, who finished with 17 digs and 11 kills. The Wildcats regained the lead at 12-11 on an ace by senior Angelina DeGrazia, who scored four in the match. DeGrazia served long, however, tying the set and giving serve to the Falcons.
South Whidbey capitalized on the chance. Junior setter Meagan Longdon scored a pair of aces and Hezel dropped a kill to lead 15-12. An ace by sophomore Anne Madsen, who scored nine kills and three aces, put the Falcons ahead 19-15.
That point gave Wildcat head coach Andrew Ness enough reason to call a timeout. Archbishop Murphy responded to the break and rattled off five straight points on a few kills, an ace and a Falcon error. Suddenly, the Wildcats were ahead 20-19 and momentum had swung their way. South Whidbey called a quick timeout and out of the break tied on a kill by Haley Viers.
The Wildcats surged ahead, however, to a 23-20 lead. South Whidbey would not be denied and scored the next five points. Falcon senior hitter Hannah Calderwood was brilliant with a kill, followed by an unlikely kill from the diminutive Longdon, a block and a tip by Hezel. Chapman finished the set with an ace as the Falcon fans erupted into cheers.
“Having two setters worked,” Chapman said of having Longdon and junior Alexa Hess on the court. “Just in case there was a bad pass, we could get a good set.”
South Whidbey controlled the final two sets. In the third set, the Falcons seized the lead on the first point and never lost it to win 25-17.
Archbishop Murphy gained an early advantage at 6-1. The Falcons committed three errors in that run, but settled down to take the lead at 10-9 on a string of Wildcat mistakes. South Whidbey ran away with the match after a long serve by Archbishop Murphy, followed by three more Wildcat errors. That set up Calderwood to secure victory with a thunderous kill.
“I think my knees gave out,” Calderwood laughed.
South Whidbey finishes the Cascade Conference season on the road Tuesday against Granite Falls. Regardless of that match’s outcome, South Whidbey will play in the District 1 1A tournament Oct. 27-29 at Lynden Christian High School.