Goats kick Falcons to state consolation bracket

Mackenzie Hezel digs a Chelan serve in the third set at the state 1A volleyball tournament Friday. South Whidbey lost in straight sets and faced elimination in the evening match against Annie Wright.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Mackenzie Hezel digs a Chelan serve in the third set at the state 1A volleyball tournament Friday. South Whidbey lost in straight sets and faced elimination in the evening match against Annie Wright.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

South Whidbey volleyball has its back to the wall after losing in straight sets to Chelan in the first round of the state volleyball tournament Friday.

The Falcons fought early and faltered late in a 25-19, 25-17, 25-10 loss to the Goats. Emotions mounted for South Whidbey’s players, leading to glum faces as the Falcons walked off the court following the loss.

“We’re all going to go our separate ways, calm down because we got frustrated a little bit, come back together and pump each other up,” said Falcon senior defensive specialist Chantel Brown.

Not all was lost, as the Falcons moved to the consolation bracket and faced Annie Wright, a private school in Tacoma, in the evening match at 6:45 p.m. Friday. The game was played after press time, but the victor would go to an additional match Saturday and loser eliminated.

South Whidbey had a lot to figure out before the elimination round. The Falcons were out of snyc and out of sorts late in the sets, letting balls hit the sport court due to poor or no communication.

It was a totally different look from the squad that gutted out a four-set win over Nooksack Valley to qualify for the state tournament.

“There was a weird energy on the floor,” said Falcon junior hitter Abby Hodson of Friday’s match. “It got us all down. I don’t know what happened.”

Both of the first sets began promisingly for South Whidbey, which held ties around 15 points in each. In the first set, South Whidbey fought to a 16-16 tie on kills by senior Mackenzie Hezel and junior Anne Madsen.

Chelan countered with senior hitter Abby Phelps, for whom South Whidbey had no answer. Phelps rattled off four kills in the first set and was aided by junior hitter Makenzie Harris, who scored three of the Goats’ final nine points. Serving was a strong suit for the Goats throughout the match. A common play was a decent Goats’ serve, followed by a long dig by the Falcons just over the net, which was then met by a Goats’ hitter or blocker putting it away with a swift hit.

“It was hard when our blockers couldn’t stop the big hitter or get a touch on it to slow the ball down,” Brown said.

South Whidbey, however, was hardly caught off guard. The two squads faced off in an exhibition match earlier in the season at South Whidbey High School during an invitational tournament. Chelan won the bout in two sets.

“I remember them having good hitters that could put the ball down, and it would go straight down,” Brown said.

The Falcons opened the second set trading points with the Goats, with one exception. South Whidbey’s servers were finally finding their spots as Longdon and Madsen scored serving aces in the first five points. So did Chelan, including a pair of aces by Phelps.

Chelan pulled away from a close match after a timeout with a 10-8 lead. Blocking proved the difference for the Goats, who recorded four points on blocks in the second set, which Chelan claimed 25-17.

By the third set, all fight appeared to have fled the Falcons who fell behind 6-1 before Falcon head coach Mandy Jones called a timeout to regroup her squad. It wasn’t enough, however, as the Goats held momentum and kept service for much of the set before finishing off the Falcons 25-10.

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