FALLS SPORTS PREVIEW | Volleyball: South Whidbey volleyball hopes to clear the net

Falcon varsity volleyball player Katie Holt back hits the ball as teammates Reilly O’Sullivan, Nicol Zalewski, Allison Wood and Lindsey Newman watch. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon varsity volleyball player Katie Holt back hits the ball as teammates Reilly O’Sullivan, Nicol Zalewski, Allison Wood and Lindsey Newman watch.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

There’s a new skipper at the helm of this year’s volleyball team and she’s making a difference.

Mandy Jones was hired over the summer to replace longtime coach Tim Durbin, who resigned to spend more quality time with his family.

She’s no stranger to the sport, having coached the Langley Middle School Cougars to a winning 7-3 record last year.

She’s taking over from a position of strength since she knows most of the girls from middle school.

“I know their abilities, their temperaments and what they are capable of doing,” Jones said. “Conversely, they know my coaching style and the level of discipline I insist on.”

The paramount goal for Jones has been to get up to speed as quickly as possible. She and junior varsity coach Meggan Lubach hosted an intense two-day volleyball camp during the summer.

“Basically, the idea was to get the girls to work at supporting each other while instilling some crucial volleyball skills,” Jones said. “The high school girls learned by teaching the younger girls while serving as role models themselves.”

Jones said that she’s tried to rectify what she’s observed as some bad habits.

“We’ve had to work on ball control and serving plus designing combination plays on offense so the girls would understand where their serve would be most effective,” she noted. “And getting them to put the power of their hit behind the ball for maximum impact.”

The team has also focused on conditioning to improve endurance. “It helps them jump higher and be quicker on the court,” Jones explained.

Allison Wood said Jones’ style has won some converts.

“Since Mandy’s taken over, we condition harder and that helps us both mentally and physically; she pushes us, which is a good thing,” Wood said. “We want to win and so does she.”

Katie Holt agreed.

“The coach wants to get everyone motivated and working together as a team,” Holt said. “She loves the game, knows what she’s talking about and all of us are excited to be playing for her this fall. It’s going to be a good season.”

Jones graduated from South Whidbey High School in 1994 and attended Green River Community College on a volleyball scholarship.

She took time out to marry and begin raising daughter Grace, now 2. Her goal is to gain her secondary teaching credentials after Grace starts school.

But first, there’s volleyball.

This Saturday, the team travels to Meridian High School for an invitational where they can test themselves against as many as four schools.

“It will tell us how far we’ve gone and how far we need to go,” Jones said. “The girls know we will be focusing heavily on offensive skills.”

Volleyball is one of Jones’ certified passions. “I’ve loved playing since I was 10 and I’m good at it,” she said.

Jones admitted she wants to instill her players with a “killer attitude.”

“That will win games, but we’re not there yet; it takes serious commitment by everyone,” she said.

Commitment can take many forms, including not being late. Daily practice starts at 2:50 p.m. and for every minute past, tardy players get some “special” running drills.

Clearly, the new coach is in charge.

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