LANGLEY — It was just about the best battle Falcons coach Tim Durbin had seen all season.
Near perfect passing. Blistering blocks. The mother of all gut checks.
Point after point, South Whidbey held off perennial powerhouse Cedarcrest to win the second game of Thursday’s Cascade Conference contest and tie the home match at a game each.
Unfortunately, the Falcons’ firestorm was fleeting. The Red Wolves rallied to take two-in-a-row and escaped Whidbey with a 3-1 win.
In the first game, Cedarcrest jumped to a six-point lead, 9-3, and pushed it to a double-digit advantage at 17-6.
The Falcons could pull no closer than nine points, 21-13, and the Red Wolves coasted to a 25-15 win.
Game two was a different story.
Though Cedarcrest got on the board first, South Whidbey quickly got the lead back and there were multiple lead changes before the score became knotted at 8-all.
The gym rocked with the repeated roar of “Falcon Power!” from the Falcon faithful and the energized South Whidbey team reclaimed the lead.
The Red Wolves stayed within a step of the Falcons through the gut of the contest — 11-10, 11-11, 12-11 — until a smoking return by Cayla Calderwood put the Falcons up 16-12. Lindsey Newman did her one better, forcing the ball at the net just outside the reach of Cedarcrest’s Kayla Klaiber. A block on the next play by Calderwood and Allison Wood made it 18-12, South Whidbey.
Then, after a never-ending volley where seemingly everyone had multiple touches on the ball, the Red Wolves pulled to within four points again, 18-14.
South Whidbey called a timeout, and the Falcons followed with a mini-scoring spree to jump to 22-16.
And then the game got really interesting.
A short volley ended in confusion after the ball was apparently touched four times on the Cedarcrest side before it went over the net; the Falcons, and the Red Wolves, stopped to watch as the ball fell into the middle of the court as play stopped. The official called the point for Cedarcrest and some of the Falcons fans leaped to their feet and raised four fingers, yelling “Four hits! Four hits!”
Falcon players looked at each other in shock and coach Durbin glanced up to the rafters.
Play resumed with the score 22-17 and the momentum seemed to be shifting to the visitors from Duvall.
The Red Wolves pulled to within three, 22-19, before a Falcons’ timeout got Whidbey back into the game with a 23-19 lead.
Still, the Red Wolves hung within a few points until Wood slammed the ball into an empty midcourt to make it 24-22, and then drilled the final point to end the game, 25-23.
“They played with a lot of heart, they talked a lot, and we probably played our best, intense game all year long. Unfortunately, we just didn’t do that in the whole match,” Durbin said.
“We’ve got a young team, and hopefully they’ve learned something, but it’s got to be the whole match. You can’t just do it in a game.”
Durbin said his players may have been thrown off by the officiating.
“I just told them that guys, it’s my job to go ahead and take care of that stuff. It’s your guys’ job to play. You guys have to be the players; you can’t be the officials.”
“And you got to drop it. Calls will be made; some are good, some are bad, and you just go from there,” Durbin said.
Cedarcrest coach Christine Hillestad was impressed with South Whidbey’s fortitude in game two.
“They battled back. They were digging the ball well and blocking really well, which I think is what made the difference,” Hillestad said.
The Red Wolves overcame a sluggish start to put the match away at the end.
“I think we started off a little bit slow, and we could have played a little bit better,” Hillestad said. “We weren’t passing that well.”
In the third, Cedarcrest cruised to a 12-3 lead and was never in jeopardy, finishing 25-12.
In game four, it was even more lopsided. The Red Wolves ran out early, jumping up to a 12-0 advantage. The Falcons went quick,
“We started passing better, and we blocked well in that last game,” Hillestad said.
Cedarcrest improved to
7-3 in the Cascade Conference and remains in third behind Archbishop Murphy (8-2) and undefeated King’s (10-0).
The Falcons fell to 4-6 in the conference.
Earlier in the week, South Whidbey beat winless Sultan in three; 25-6, 25-15, 25-17.
Newman had seven kills and five assists, while Katie Holt added five kills and Kelsie Dorpat finished with 12 assists.
Durbin said the Falcons played pretty well against the Turks, with solid defense and solid passing except for just one bad five- or six-pass stretch.
South Whidbey is scheduled to play King’s at home on Tuesday, Oct. 16.