If you thought the Friday Harbor volleyball team would be ready to roll over at this point, then think again.
The Wolverines, plagued this season by injuries and illnesses, turned in what may have been their best performance of the year as a patchwork lineup gave a talented Shoreline Christian squad all it could handle despite coming out on the losing end of three consecutive games Tuesday in Turnbull Gym.
Friday Harbor fell to 2-6 in Northwest 1A/2B League play and 2-9 overall. The Crusaders, locked in a battle with Darrington for second place in the league standings, improved to 5-2 in league and 7-2 overall, but barely avoided being ambushed by the Wolverines.
“I was pleasantly surprised by our performance, to say the least,” Friday Harbor Head Coach Travis Mager said. “We made some mistakes here and there, but the girls played their hearts out. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”
Down by six points in the opener, Friday Harbor rallied to tie the game at 25-25 and forced the Crusaders into a tie-breaker before falling 29-27 in the first round of the best-of-five match. The Wolverines, trailing in game No. 2 by 10 points, rallied yet again and trimmed the deficit down to five before the Crusaders reclaimed momentum and clinched the second game by a score of 25-19.
The two teams were knotted at 11 points apiece until the Wolverines stumbled down the stretch and Shoreline Christian tallied 14 of the next 21 points to take game No. 3, and the match, by a score of 25-18.
With two players missing from the starting rotation, junior Sierra Dawson and sophomore Jordyn Williams each got significant playing time and provided a much-needed boost to the Wolverines depleted lineup. Senior Kayla Short, the team’s biggest offensive threat, paced the Wolverines at the net with a dozen kills and countless blocks against a well-seasoned Shoreline Christian offense.
Despite the loss, Tuesday’s gutsy performance against the Crusaders may well signal that the Wolverines are on the rise as this year’s team tries to match or exceed its league win-total in each of the past five seasons. There’s little room error, however, with four league matches remaining and league-leading La Conner and a match at Darrington looming on the horizon. Today’s match at Orcas and an Oct. 20 match at home against Mount Vernon Christian are “must-wins” if the Wolverines are to best their win-totals of the recent past.
For Friday Harbor’s four seniors, it’s either now or never, senior Jenny Gustafson said.
“I think we’re starting to realize it’s just about over for us seniors and we’re laying it all out on the line,” she said.
Next: The Wolverines are on the road today at Orcas, they host Nooksack Valley on Saturday; tipoff is 1 p.m.> They face Mount Vernon Christian at home Tuesday, beginning at 4:30 p.m.