South Whidbey students return in force to fall sports

Carlee Mills, a junior, practices her serve during the first day of practice  for the South Whidbey High School volleyball program Aug. 26. A total of 35 girls are registered.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Carlee Mills, a junior, practices her serve during the first day of practice for the South Whidbey High School volleyball program Aug. 26. A total of 35 girls are registered.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

South Whidbey High School buzzed with activity Monday morning.

Though school starts next week, fall sports kicked off Aug. 26 with more than 162 students registered for football, volleyball, girls soccer, boys tennis and cross country combined, according to the athletic department.

It's quite a feat for a school of a little more than 500 students enrolled, though a slight dip from the 171 athletes last year.

An overcast morning led to ideal conditions for the outdoor sports like football and tennis. Football had a few days head start with a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association sanctioned start of Aug. 21, including several two-a-day practices and the team's legendary beach days at Double Bluff. More than 50 students are registered to play football this season for co-head coaches Mark Hodson and Andy Davis, both in their teens as far as number of years coaching South Whidbey.

The other big draw fall sport was volleyball. Head coach Mandy Jones will run three teams this season — varsity, junior varsity and C-team — to find spots for 35 girls.

Of the nearly three dozen girls, 14 are freshmen, volleyball's largest class. The varsity squad lost only two seniors, so finding spots on the top tier will be tough.

Jones and longtime junior varsity coach Meggan Lubach created a point evaluation system from which to base their team decisions, like the sorting hat in Harry Potter, just less magical.

"We're trying something different this year," Jones said. "We just have so much talent, it's going to be tough to make these decisions."

Boys tennis under third-year head coach Karyle Kramer saw 26 students registered for her team. Though on the first day, the number of boys on the court was closer to 20 with some students away on vacation, a couple out sick and at least one who slept in, unaware of the 8 a.m. start.

Cross country traveled north to Camp Casey for its three-day camp to begin the season with all-day activities. Camp is far from snacks and games, though those are part of the Falcon cross country teams' itinerary each day. The distance runners began with a morning run, reviewed their form, got in a game of Frisbee golf, went for a swim, followed by a three-mile, six-mile or 10-mile run along the bluff in Coupeville, and ended the day with a stride analysis lecture.

Girls soccer practiced in the mid-afternoon under the tutelage of second-year head coach Ben Rusch, a former Falcon boys soccer player circa 2006. His program saw 24 girls turn out for the first day and he expected at least four more to show up later in the week. Only three of the players were seniors.

Rusch was confident the girls soccer program would run two teams again this season, even if the teams' bench depth was a little shallow.

"It's going to be a little tight," Rusch said of the teams' rosters. "As far as the quality, I'm not concerned."


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