South Whidbey volleyball punched its ticket to the state championships for the second year in a row on Saturday.
The Falcons (15-5 overall) swept the Emerald City League’s Bush and Northwest en route to a fourth place finish. Had the two matches gone the other way, South Whidbey’s season would have ended. But, there was far too much momentum on the Falcons’ side of the net; the Falcons have shutout eight of their past nine opponents.
Things came together at the right time, senior outside Kolby Heggenes said.
“It’s like we became the team we’d been practicing for the entire year,” Heggenes said.
The top four teams from the bi-district tournament advanced to state. Lynden Christian, which beat the Falcons 3-1 during the 1A District 1 tournament on Oct. 28, finished first. Overlake and King’s finished second and third, respectively.
South Whidbey plays Charles Wright Academy in the first round at state on Nov. 10 at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
“I think that the girls worked really hard to be where we are right now,” head coach Mandy Jones said. “I’m just happy for them and the seniors.”
The buzz and spectacle of the state championships won’t be new for most of the Falcon girls, who reached the SunDome in 2016. It’s typical for six to eight matches to be played at once. Not surprisingly, it can overwhelm the senses, according to Heggenes and junior outside hitter Emma Leggett. They’re confident that it won’t be an issue for them this postseason.
“We’ve all played in tournaments,” Leggett said. “We were all used to the noise, but we just didn’t prepare for it.”
“It’s just getting past that mental state,” she added.
They may be used to the noise this time around, but they have not yet experienced a victory at state. South Whidbey went two-and-out last year, putting a cap on a 13-9 record season. South Whidbey has already eclipsed its win total from this past season, but wins can only take them so far.
“We’ve all been together and played together for so long that our chemistry is so strong,” Leggett said. “…I think everyone has peaked right when we need it.”
Jones said the Falcons will need to mentally prepare themselves with the expectation that their season isn’t ending just because they’ve reached the pinnacle of state.
“I think its going to take a lot of hard work and they need be able to get it in their minds that this is state and that we’re not on vacation,” Jones said. “They’re just going to have to keep playing hard like they have been.”