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Senior volleyball squad on South Whidbey relies on experience | FALCON FALL SPORTS PREVIEW
Third place in 2012 was good, but South Whidbey volleyball has its sights set on first place.
That starts with a first-place finish in the Cascade Conference, then in the District 1 playoffs, in the tri-district tournament and the 1A state tournament. That means there is a long road ahead of the Falcons that finished 8-6 last season in conference play and 10-9 overall.
"This year, we will be in it," said senior setter Meagan Longdon. "We can beat anybody."
South Whidbey took a major step forward at the end of the regular season last year when it defeated Archbishop Murphy, 3-1. It was the first time in head coach Mandy Jones' five-year career that South Whidbey beat Archbishop Murphy, a private Catholic school in south Everett.
"We've got to come back and prove we can hold onto it," said senior defensive specialist Chantel Brown.
The 2012 playoffs began with infinite promise as the Falcons won their first two matches, 3-1, against Mount Baker and Friday Harbor. But South Whidbey lost a five-set heartbreaker to Nooksack Valley and was swept by Lynden Christian, which kept the Falcons from the tri-district tournament.
Serving was a major focus last season and remained so in the offseason. Players from top to bottom of the shuffling 12-member roster can hit their marks, the seniors said.
"We're better at hitting our zones," Longdon said.
South Whidbey barely retooled its varsity lineup having lost only two seniors, though one was the starting middle hitter where the Falcons found much of their success. This year, South Whidbey's coaches hope to use outside hitters like Mackenzie Hezel, Carlee Mills, Anne Madsen and Abby Hodson to replace graduated player Hannah Calderwood.
Perhaps the most consistent person on the floor for South Whidbey the past three seasons is Longdon. For most of her career, she has seen frequent action on the court as the team's setter, sometimes as a pair with another setter to ensure the hitters get the right ball for a kill.
She spent time in the offseason at a volleyball camp with several members of the team, an experience she said carried over into practices this season. Drills are faster, and Jones said she wants to have fun with her team and will try to stay positive with the girls through their mistakes, a change from seasons past.
"We're all wanting to lay it all out," Longdon said.
The road to the 1A playoffs is guarded by one powerhouse in the Cascade Conference: King's. Last year, the Lady Knights finished with a 14-0 league record, 20-2 overall, and placed fifth in the 1A state tournament.
Other than trying to topple the long-established pecking order, South Whidbey's seniors eagerly anticipated their matches with rival Coupeville. Last year, South Whidbey swept both matches in three sets, and the 2013 Falcons will look for a similar outcome against the Wolves.