Falcons show off their ‘scrappy’ side at volleyball tourney

Falcon Cayla Calderwood celebrates another defensive move over Shoreline during Saturday’s South Whidbey Invite. The 27th annual event brought together 16 teams from all over the Northwest. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon Cayla Calderwood celebrates another defensive move over Shoreline during Saturday’s South Whidbey Invite. The 27th annual event brought together 16 teams from all over the Northwest.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

LANGLEY — There’s a new attitude on the court for the South Whidbey volleyball team this season and the operative word for it is “scrappy.”

In the third game of Saturday’s South Whidbey Invite —

16 schools showed up for the 27th round-robin tournament — the intensity of the Falcons was apparent.

Anytime an opposing player took a shot, it was returned by a Falcon with both violence and precision, the ball slamming into the court, leaving the Shoreline players almost shell-shocked.

That’s the caliber of play new head coach Mandy Jones is tying to instill.

“I told them before our first game that I wanted them to go all out, play their hardest and have fun,” Jones said.

“I wanted them to be scrappy and run their offensive plays. And they did — I have never seen them play so hard all season. Every single one of them stepped on the court and played like they had nothing to lose. They were digging balls left and right, and slamming the ball on the opponent’s court.”

The Falcons ended up placing ninth out of 16 teams. South Whidbey was matched against some top volleyball schools, and they stayed right in the game with them all.

Games ran no longer than 45 minutes on four courts in two gyms. Not optimal conditions, but the idea is for each team and player to get as much playing time as possible.

The first match of the day was against Meadowdale, which the Falcons lost 22-25 and 22-23.

“The second game against Meadowdale was intense, and I’m confident that we could have beaten them if the time didn’t run out,” Jones said. “It’s important they learn to rally back from losses to maintain their edge.”

The second game was against Shoreline Christian, which the Falcons won 25-11.

Falcon Nicol Zalewski said the team has started running a series of new offensive plays.

“We’re getting the ball down lower to confuse the defense, sort of fake them out,” she said.

Allison Wood noted that Jones has made some minor changes, such as moving players to new positions, and that has helped, as well. “Moving Reilly [O’Sullivan] to outside hitter, for example, and Lindsey [Newman] to right side hitter,” she said.

Melanie Murphy added that Jones has moved the team to a higher level compared with last season. “We’ve been working a lot harder than in the past, and it’s having an effect on our performance,” she said.

“Our third match for pool play was against Lake Chelan, and we lost to them 19-25 and 21-25,” Jones said. “This match was good because Chelan is a tough team and we played very well against them. We ended up taking third in our pool, and were then seeded with Granite Falls and Coupeville.”

The day gave Jones and assistant coach Meggan Lubach the chance to check out the team’s league competition and take lots of notes.

“We beat the Tigers 26-24 and 25-20, then beat Coupeville

25-18 and 25-18. Overall it was a great day, and the girls came out strong and finished strong,” Jones said.

Wood had 32 kills; Newman had 10 kills and 18 digs; freshman Linden Firethorne was hot, with 13 kills and 15 blocks. Brittany Wood and Murphy played outstanding defense, both of them diving for balls around the court. Setter Kelsey Dorpat played an outstanding game setting her hitters up with beautiful sets and plays, ending up with 55 assists. Katie Holt had 15 blocks and Cayla Calderwood had six blocks and eight kills.

Other singled out players by the coach were Zalewski and O’Sullivan as outside hitters and Allisa Coupe as setter/right side in her first varsity tournament.

“I’m so proud of all of my girls, and hope that they continue to fight hard throughout the rest of the season and play with their hearts,” Jones added.

Newman said the tournament was a great learning experience.

“Our games against Meadowdale and the first one with Shoreline were some of the best we’ve ever played,” she said. “We’ve been working on pumping up our intensity and focus. Seems to work.”

Indeed it does.

On Monday, South Whidbey beat Granite Falls 3-1, winning three of four games by scores of 25-22, 20-25, 25-16 and 25-22. The girls are 2-1 in the league and overall.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 the girls welcome Lakewood to Erickson Gym.

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