Winning the first two games gave South Whidbey volleyball plenty of cushion against Cedarcrest on Tuesday.
The Falcons needed every bit of a two-game lead in a 3-2 victory over the Red Wolves. South Whidbey and Cedarcrest traded error-laden runs in the first two sets, leading to a 25-19, 26-24 South Whidbey advantage.
“I thought we had it in the bag,” said Falcon head coach Mandy Jones.
Later, she added: “We would fight hard, get the ball back, play scrappy defense and great offense and would miss our serves.”
Claiming a home victory against the Red Wolves put the Falcons (5-1 league; 6-1 overall) firmly in second place in the Cascade Conference. Fellow 1A school King’s, which swept South Whidbey earlier this season, leads the conference with a 6-0 record.
Holding serve was an issue for both teams, though it has plagued the Falcons all season and in years past. When the Falcons had serve, they made the most of it, including juniors Abby Hodson and Anne Madsen with three aces each.
Cedarcrest challenged South Whidbey in both of the first sets. The Falcons jumped to an early lead and were able to hold it throughout, but the Wolves chipped away from a 23-16 deficit until Falcon senior hitter Mackenzie Hezel put away the game on one of her game-high 24 kills.
Neither team separated itself from a lead in the second set. Cedarcrest led 22-20 until Hodson scored a tip kill and a block to force a tie. The squads tied again at 24-24 on a tip by Hezel. Falcon senior setter Meagan Longdon scored a tip to put her squad ahead 25-24, and Falcon sophomore Calli Patterson scored the game-winning kill.
Cedarcrest pulled ahead from an 11-11 tie in the third set on several South Whidbey mistakes. A kill by Red Wolves junior blocker Bronwen Boyd put Cedarcrest up 16-13 and led Jones to call a time out. The Red Wolves ran away to a win.
The Red Wolves snatched the fourth set, forcing the match into a fifth set. After losing two games in a row, Jones said her team found its focus and cruised in the decisive set, 15-7.
“They realized that they didn’t want to lose and that it was time to step up,” Jones said. “Never once did I feel we were going to lose the match. I believe that much in this team.”
Against Granite Falls on the road Thursday, South Whidbey corrected its mistakes and rolled to a 25-22, 25-19, 25-12 victory. Madsen led the game with 14 kills and chipped in eight digs. Longdon led the way with 24 assists and a team-high four aces.