South Whidbey volleyball gave the top-ranked team in class 2A a serious scare on Thursday night.
The Falcons narrowly lost to Archbishop Murphy 3-2 at Erickson Gymnasium. South Whidbey won the first and third sets, but the Wildcats halted the Falcons’ momentum in a pivotal 25-21 victory in the fourth set. The Wildcats claimed the match with a 15-9 win the fifth and final set.
The Wildcats remain undefeated at 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the Cascade Conference, while the Falcons dropped to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in league.
The Falcons, ranked ninth in 1A, contested nearly every single point. They were fired up emotionally throughout the match.
“I just wanted it so freaking bad,” said senior outside hitter Kolby Heggenes, who led the team with 19 kills and two blocks.
“I’ve never seen our team play that well,” added senior middle hitter Megan Miller.
Falcon head coach Mandy Jones said the goal for the night was to play confidently and leave the gym without any regrets.
“I asked them after the match if they had any regrets and they all said, ‘No,’” Jones said. “I believe them. Our defense was incredible, our offense was on. Archbishop has some big blockers, but we were able to put the ball around them.”
“I just feel like this team has so much heart and so much talent,” he added.
Playing tentatively in big matches has traditionally been the Falcons’ shortcoming. But, it hasn’t been a problem for South Whidbey this season, nor was it on Thursday night.
“We had a big crowd and we knew it was going to be a good game,” Jones said. “We know we can compete with them. And like I said, they played with no regrets.”
Unforced errors by the Falcons during serve and receive, as well as some other minor hiccups, were the only setbacks that kept South Whidbey from winning, Jones said. She said they were “little things” that can be easily fixed.
Jones was most impressed by the play of the Falcons’ starters and subs.
“Everybody had a role and everybody had a part in this,” Jones said. “I can’t just highlight one person because they all played so great.”
Senior Bailey Todd was instrumental in setting up the Falcons’ offensive attacks with 43 assists. She also had six aces and three kills.
Miller, who finished with 13 kills and four blocks, said the Falcons’ defense is one of their strongest assets.
“We’ve got a super rocking defense,” Miller said. “…I’ve never seen our defense play that well.”
Junior libero Angelina Wilson and junior outside hitter Emma Leggett led the Falcons with 20 digs each, while Leggett also contributed 12 kills.
She also added that the Falcons’ trust in one another allowed them to climb back from a six-point deficit in the fourth set and pull within two points.
“Even when we’re in those situations, I have no hesitation that my libero is not going to dig the ball or Kolby isn’t get the ball,” Miller said. “It’s just little things that are errors are why we lose those points.”
Heggenes said the errors mostly stemmed from “being in our own heads” whenever the Falcons trailed.
“We started making unforced errors and that got us on a little slump,” Heggenes said. “But, the good thing about it was that we could come back.”
Jones also added that she didn’t have to actively remind the players to stay grounded whenever they won a big point or claimed a set, as they managed it on their own.
“I didn’t see any over cockiness,” Jones said. “They stayed humbled, they didn’t think ahead. They just played the game.”