Volleyball team felled by Loggers, 3-0

Buoyed by a partisan crowd, a Friday Harbor volleyball hobbled by injuries nearly pulled off a stunner in its regular-season finale Oct. 28 in Turnbull Gym.

Leading 25-24 in the opening game, the Wolverines needed just one point to put the Northwest 1A/2B League's second-place team on the ropes and themselves in the drivers' seat.

But Darrington (10-1) had a different outcome in mind. The Loggers tallied three points in a row to clinch the opener and then demonstrated why, with exception of La Conner, they've run the table against the rest of the league by running away with the next two games and posting a sweep.

For the Wolverines, it was an uphill battle from the start. Senior Meaghan McCormick, a four-year veteran, was sidelined by an ankle injury and unable to compete in what would have been a farewell performance before the home crowd. Junior Kayla Short, bothered by an ankle injury as well, was forced to take a seat midway through the match.

Sophomore Kelsey Barnes led the charge in the opener with a series of booming blocks, a couple of kills and a well-timed tip or two that dropped just over the net and onto the Loggers side of the court. But the Wolverines patchwork lineup couldn't contain the Loggers' big guns, led by 6-foot sophomore Hailey Wales and fellow sophomore Caresse Baker, at the net. After squeaking out the opening game, Darrington owned the final two.

The Loggers prevailed 27-25, 25-16, 25-15.

Friday Harbor fell to 3-9 in league and 3-10 overall. The Wolverines open post-season play Nov. 1 against Lynden Christian in a win-or-go-home contest at Coupeville High School.

With a bouquet of flowers in hand, McCormick held back tears at the conclusion of the match. She and fellow senior Kelsie Carlton, also a four-year veteran, drew an ovation from the crowd and a steady flow of hugs from teammates, family and friends.

"This year a really realized that high school sports mean a lot," McCormick said. "You start friendships with people that you know you're always going to remember. It's been a lot of fun."

The outcome against Darrington proved a fitting end to a season of near misses in league competition. The Wolverines forced three foes into five-game matches but came up short in all three.

Carlton said that a win in the finale at home would have been nice. But one defeat, she said, won't overshadow four years of building friendships and untold hours of camaraderie on and off the court.

"It's definitely sad," Carlton said. "But I'm so proud of my teammates. We've made a lot of progress and gotten a lot better this year. Yeah, it would've been nice to win."

Wins may have been frustratingly scarce in the regular season. But Head Coach Travis Mager believes the Wolverines can to do some damage in post-season play, noting they took a game from Lynden Christian when the two teams met in September.

Still, Mager said the departure of Carlton and McCormick will be a significant blow to the program and a personal loss as well.

"They've been the backbone of this program for four years," he said. "They're both tremendous athletes and you couldn't ask for two better leaders on the team. It's hard to let two players like that go."

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