South Whidbey volleyball recovers from district loss, forces elimination match

Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown drops for a pass against Nooksack Valley. South Whidbey struggled on offense in Nooksack Valley’s 3-2 victory.  - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
Falcon junior libero Chantel Brown drops for a pass against Nooksack Valley. South Whidbey struggled on offense in Nooksack Valley’s 3-2 victory.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

Toughness and endurance — South Whidbey volleyball has those.

The Falcons gutted out three matches at the District 1 volleyball tournament Saturday. The third match, a four-set victory against Mount Baker, sent South Whidbey to an elimination contest against Lynden Christian on Tuesday night, after the Record went to press.

“There’s no option — I’m going there to win,” said Falcon senior Aly Chapman.

“We have no excuse to lose.”

South Whidbey started the 1A volleyball tournament as the second seed from the Cascade Conference. And these early birds were very early with a Langley departure at 8 a.m. for an 11:30 game.

The Falcons quickly quelled the Friday Harbor Wolverines, 23-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-23. As the Falcons had all season, the girls played poorly in the first set loss.

But in equally Falcon fashion, South Whidbey rallied for the first-round victory.

“Once we stopped missing serves and missing hits, everything went well because we were playing really good defense,” Chapman said.

A slow start compounded with mistakes on offense cost South Whidbey in a five-set tiebreaker with Nooksack Valley. Slow starts have become a trademark for this Falcon squad, which swept opponents five times and played in five five-set tiebreakers this year.

“It always takes us that first set to get going,” said Falcon head coach Mandy Jones. “We weren’t putting the balls down on them. We were giving them easy ones.”

Against Nooksack Valley, South Whidbey sang a familiar song in a 15-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-23, 9-15 loss.Abby Hodson and Anne Madsen, both sophomores, jump to block a shot by Nooksack Valley at the District 1 1A volleyball tournament Saturday, Oct. 27. The Falcons won the match in four sets.

“There was a lot of tension,” Chapman said. “It was a lot of frustration and we weren’t able to get past it.”

Falling in the second match was a major letdown for South Whidbey. The Falcons later watched King’s sweep Nooksack Valley, which had an easy time against Coupeville in its first match.

“It was very winnable,” Chapman said.

“For me, and probably the rest of our defensive players, it was really disappointing.”

The loss dropped the Falcons to the consolation bracket, where they faced elimination against the Mount Baker Mountaineers.

“Going into Mount Baker they were exhausted,” Jones said. “I told them they had two choices: to win this and play on, or to lose and we can be done.”

South Whidbey put their past struggles behind them for a 18-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-15 win. After losing the first set, Jones said her players realized that their season was on the brink of being finished, limited their mistakes and found the energy to win. The Falcons missed only four serves in the final three sets and their offense worked better after a lineup change, Jones moved sophomore Abby Hodson to the middle and Anne Madsen to the right. Hodson finished the first day of the tournament with 26 kills (15 against Friday Harbor) and four aces, and Madsen totaled 23 kills, nine aces and eight digs.

“The rest of the players got the message that we have to want this win for our teammates,” Chapman said.

The victory advanced South Whidbey to another elimination match against Lynden Christian on Tuesday.

South Whidbey’s other leaders were senior Hannah Calderwood with 35 kills and six blocks; junior Mackenzie Hezel with 24 kills, 21 digs and six aces; junior Chantel Brown with 46 digs and seven aces; junior Meagan Longdon with 84 assists, 29 digs, 13 aces and 10 kills; and Chapman with 27 digs.

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