Falcon Angelina Wilson, shown here at the youth summer camp helping Eleida Bonnell, is among a core of returning players who will lead the South Whidbey volleyball team this year. (Photo by Jim Waller/South Whidbey Record)

Falcon Angelina Wilson, shown here at the youth summer camp helping Eleida Bonnell, is among a core of returning players who will lead the South Whidbey volleyball team this year. (Photo by Jim Waller/South Whidbey Record)

Prep preview / Volleyball

After reaching the state tournament two years in a row, South Whidbey volleyball coach Mandy Jones believes the Falcons have the firepower to make it three.

South Whidbey lost five players to graduation, but the Falcons are reloading with a strong senior class.

“We have a good core of returning players,” Jones said.

The seniors, she noted, bring more than talent to the court.

“They are such good friends; that will really benefit us,” she said.

Jones would like nothing more than for her team to be the first-ever champions of the new North Sound Conference.

That won’t be easy, she conceded, because defending state champion King’s is also a member.

Gone, however, is Archbishop Murphy, who along with King’s, handed the Falcons their only regular season losses last fall, when South Whidbey posted a 10-4 record.

The Falcons were 8-4 in league play and 15-7 overall.

Jones said another goal is for the Falcons to constantly improve, stepping up their play each contest.

“We always want to go up — every match and every step of the postseason,” she added.

Two regulars from last year, seniors Emma Leggett and Chloe Johnson, lead a group of returning players: Megan Leonard, Angelina Wilson, Emma Hodson and Alyssa Ludtke.

Among the newcomers expected to earn varsity time, according to Jones, are Kayla Knauer, Kyah Nelson and Allie Brady.

South Whidbey opens at 4A Mariner (2-12 in 2017) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The first home match is against Bellevue Christian (11-8) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.

The Falcons host their annual South Whidbey Invitational Saturday, Sept. 8.