Standing at only 5-foot-2, there is a reason Meagan Longdon’s volleyball teammates look up to her. And it’s not her size.
Longdon was South Whidbey volleyball’s starting setter, and her job was simple: run the offense. The Falcon junior caught the eyes of coaches across the Cascade Conference and was voted as the league’s first-team setter.
“I had no idea Mandy had even put me in to be nominated,” Longdon said.
“It felt good because I put in a lot of work. I cried after games because I was so exhausted.”
That kind of effort and emotion quietly propelled Longdon into a leadership role. South Whidbey’s volleyball squad slumped early in this past season before a midseason turnaround that resulted in a third-place finish in the conference. Longdon’s play and leadership were largely credited for righting the Falcon ship and finishing with an 8-6 conference record (10-9 overall).
“I run, I dive. I go for everything,” Longdon said. “When it’s time to get the points, I let my teammates I know. When it’s time to have fun, I also let them know.”
Balancing between fun and competition was quite the dance for Longdon this season. Early in the year, the Falcons were despondent, visually displeased with their performances and at times audibly frustrated with each other. Longdon, admittedly, was part of that. It’s in Longdon’s competitive nature, and once she adjusted the way she communicated with her teammates, the offense synced and victory followed.
“My mom has always said that I need to step up and people look up to me. If I’m aggravated, they’re aggravated,” Longdon said.
“I don’t know why my teammates look up to me. Maybe it’s because I’m loud and I want to win.”
Postseason accolades were hardly a shock to her coach, Mandy Jones. For the past three years, Jones watched Longdon develop from a timid sophomore on a junior- and senior-laden varsity squad to a team leader.
“I had my speech all ready to go when we went into the postseason meeting,” Jones said.
“She’s a powerful offensive player and is a smart player. I wanted to use a lot of strategic plays with her as far as dumping and hitting.”
By the numbers, Longdon put together an impressive season. She tallied 503 assists, 147 digs, 61 aces with a 90 percent serving average, 36 kills and four blocks. Posting statistics like that, her coach said, was the result of a tireless work ethic and offseason dedication.
“Meagan will push through anything,” Jones said. “She’ll push through complete exhaustion, nausea, a finger sprain.”
“You can’t run an offense without your ‘quarterback.’ The setter needs to run the floor, be positive and hustle.”
Heading into the 2012 season, Longdon was poised for a new role at an old position. For the past two seasons, Longdon rotated in as the team’s reserve setter. In her junior year, the duties of running the offense fell largely on her slight shoulders, though the Falcons used another setter — junior Alexa Hess — at times.
“She found a whole new confidence in herself,” Jones said.
“I really needed somebody to step up and be a leader. Meagan really took that to heart.”
Jones added: “Yes, she wears her emotions on her sleeve, but I can’t fault her for that. I do the same thing.”
As the team’s setter, Longdon had to occasionally play at the net. For one of the team’s shorter players, the task should have been daunting. Always the fierce competitor, Longdon relished at blocking the other team’s taller hitters and scoring attacking or tipping kills.
“I’m so short, when I’m blocking with these tall hitters and I get the touch it feels great,” Longdon said.
Leading South Whidbey will be her duty next season. The Falcons will be in the second year as a 1A school and return six starters. Experience and Longdon’s leadership, the Falcons hope, will help them avoid an early season slump.
“Once we knew where we were at the beginning of the season, we knew what our strengths and weaknesses were, we had a lot of hard practices,” she said.