SPORTS PREVIEW | On offense: Falcons hope to reach lofty goals

The Falcon volleyball team gets ready for its first game, against Lakewood, on Thursday. Coach Mandy Jones, in back on the left, appears somewhat amused by it all. - Jeff VanDerford
The Falcon volleyball team gets ready for its first game, against Lakewood, on Thursday. Coach Mandy Jones, in back on the left, appears somewhat amused by it all.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

In Mandy Jones’ first year as head coach for the Falcon volleyball team, the girls posted an 8-6 winning record after going to district playoffs last winter.

For Jones, that’s not good enough.

“My expectations of my girls are high,” she said. “They must play hard, pick each other up when necessary and play as a team.”

And she has an edge. Before coming to South Whidbey — where she graduated in 1994 before going to college on a volleyball scholarship — Jones coached the middle school Cougars for five years.

“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.”

She admitted that her approach is to be someone they can talk to, as long as they remember a bright but fine line exists; she’s the coach.

She and junior varsity coach Meggan Lubach are excited about the team’s prospects.

“I think that our season is going to be very strong,” Jones said. “As long as we keep up the intensity and determination to play at our potential, we will shine in the league. We have a very strong front row this year that will own the net on defense.”

Jones noted that the team has been working on utilizing game-like situations for a new defense that will, hopefully, cover the court and not let any balls hit the floor.

“Our defense at the net has been working hard on blocking, but our defensive specialists will be ready for any ball that gets past the wall of blockers,” she said. “The defense emphasizes girls being in the right place at the right time.”

As in any sport, though, the offense rules.

Jones said that the offense has been working hard on specific hitting, and they have been training with the setters on a variety of combination plays.

Allison Wood and Katie Holt will be the strong outside hitters for the Falcons, while Cayla Calderwood and Linden Firethorne will function as blockers and huge middle hitters. Kelsey Dorpat and Alissa Coupe both bring great leadership to the court as setters, and both offer all-around skills in the game.

“No doubt, the competition is going to be hard, as usual,” Calderwood said. “But the whole thing about having six seniors on the team is working for us. We’ve all been together a lot of years.”

This is Holt’s first year in the back row, and she’s trying to adjust.

“You have to be quicker and read the other guy’s hitters faster,” she said. “But we’re having a good time out there.”

Jones has worked hard developing a sense of team chemistry, running off-season camps that featured outside experts on volleyball.

She said anyone who hasn’t come out to watch the girls play is missing out, big time.

“Volleyball is a fast-paced, fun sport to watch,” she noted. “It’s a game that doesn’t depend on size or strength, where each player can be put on the floor to benefit their team with their own individual attributes.

“Sure, it would be great if everyone was 6-foot-4 and could jump out of their shoes, but to see each girl flourish on the floor, no matter her size, is my reward as a coach,” Jones said.

King’s, Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest will be the toughest competitors, and South Whidbey certainly isn’t going to take them for granted.

“I think that with the squad we have this year, we are going to give all the teams in our league a good fight,” Jones said.

“Bottom line? The team is looking forward to reaching our goals: Winning our league, going to districts and on to state. As long as our team believes in each other and our goals, the Falcon volleyball girls will fly very high this year,” she said.

On Monday, Sept. 14, the team travels to Cedarcrest. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, the girls welcome Sultan to Erickson Gym.

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