Strong serves send Falcon volleyball soaring over Tigers

Falcon libero Chantel Brown digs a serve against the Granite Falls Tigers on Tuesday. The junior recorded 22 digs in the three-set sweep. Mackenzie Hezel, junior hitter, tracks the ball as she moves toward the net.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon libero Chantel Brown digs a serve against the Granite Falls Tigers on Tuesday. The junior recorded 22 digs in the three-set sweep. Mackenzie Hezel, junior hitter, tracks the ball as she moves toward the net.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

GRANITE FALLS — The way South Whidbey served aces would have gotten the Falcons kicked out of Vegas.

For South Whidbey volleyball’s Cascade Conference finale against Granite Falls, the Falcons dropped 11 aces. Six of which came from sophomore hitter Anne Madsen.

“We’re really good at doing things right when we need to do things right, like Anne making six aces,” said Falcon head coach Mandy Jones.

Combined with some stellar net play, the Falcons landed their fifth straight victory, 25-19, 26-24, 25-20. In that span, South Whidbey (8-6 Cascade Conference; 8-7 overall) has been nearly flawless, losing only one set.

South Whidbey continued its strong run against Granite Falls. Though it appeared to be more of a fight than the Falcons were prepared for, especially in the second set.

Granite Falls controlled the lead much of the second set. The Falcons tied the score seven times. Errors put South Whidbey behind four points as late in the set as 22-18, including one of several net violations called on senior hitter Hannah Calderwood. Tiger sophomore Tessa Montgomery lost serve on a long hit and gave the ball to the Falcons. Calderwood atoned for her earlier footwork issues with a thunderous kill into the near corner. That was followed by an unlikely kill by junior setter Meagan Longdon (25 assists, six kills and three assists). An error by the Tigers tied the set at 22-22.

The Tigers took control again on a tip pass by junior setter Kimberly Martinez. Then they pushed South Whidbey to the brink as a soft pass fell with three Falcons nearby watching it hit the court. Tiger senior Kayla Mathis served well beyond the court to cut her team’s lead to 24-23.

South Whidbey used its reliable underclassman Madsen for a tying kill. Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown (22 digs) served an ace to break the tie, and junior hitter Mackenzie Hezel’s kill put away the set and handed her team a 2-0 lead in the match.

“As long as I get it over the net, I’ve done my job with serving and can go back to my job passing,” Brown said.

Between sets, South Whidbey’s players and coaches huddled around Hezel, the only seated player. Jones said she rested Hezel for the start of the third set because the hitter was overheated and felt dizzy.

“She’s so competitive and takes it so seriously, which is a good thing,” Jones said.

Madsen mauled the Tigers with her serving prowess in the final set. Trailing 5-2, Madsen scored a tip to regain the serve. After a block by Calderwood, who finished with nine kills and two blocks, Madsen honed in on the Tigers’ formation. The ball went up, met her hand and met the court — five times, punctuated only by a wide return by the Tigers, a timeout and a soft pass that sophomore hitter Abby Hodson promptly put down. The timeout didn’t affect Madsen, and didn’t position the Tigers any better.

“I was really focusing on where I was going to put the ball, watching where the other people were placed,” said Madsen, who finished with a team-high 11 kills and six aces, just one shy of tying her career-high.

“I just think it’s giving me a breather.”

From there, the Falcons cruised to an eight-point lead at 16-8. Granite Falls made a small rally and outscored South Whidbey 6-2 on an ace by Tiger senior Ashtyn Froland. But the Falcons were already in flight and jumped to their largest lead of the night for match point at 24-15.

There was fight left in these Tigers on their senior night, however. Granite Falls rattled off a five-point run before junior Haley Viers won the match with a kill.

Suddenly, the Falcons are in third place in the conference after a 2-6 start. South Whidbey finished behind King’s and Cedarcrest, the only teams that swept the series.

“If we can come out strong, stay strong and finish strong, we can do well at the district tournament,” Jones said.

South Whidbey will play Friday Harbor in the District 1 1A volleyball tournament today at Lynden Christian Middle School. The tournament is double elimination.


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