SNOHOMISH — The Arlington High School volleyball team entered this season with the goal of writing a story of redemption after last year’s 7-0 start ended with an early exit from districts.
If the Eagles’ 2019 season was a book, Thursday night they penned the first chapter of the rising action in the plot line.
Arlington came into a hostile environment at Snohomish High School, set the tone by grinding out a back-and-forth opening set, answered every Panther rally and came out with a 3-0 victory in a matchup of Wesco 3A/2A unbeatens with league-title aspirations.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited for (the team),” Eagles coach Whitney Williams said. “We worked really, really hard. (Arianna Bilby) said something in our huddle right at the beginning of the game, and she said, ‘We’ve been working since last year to do this. To play to our potential.’ Which I think is what we did. It was a stellar performance from our girls, the best we’ve played all year, and I couldn’t be happier that it was against a team equally as talented.”
The win marked Arlington’s first over Snohomish since 2016, ending the Panthers’ three-match winning streak over the Eagles and 22-game regular-season winning streak over Wesco 3A/2A opponents.
Arlington (8-0 overall, 8-0 Wesco 3A/2A) remains unbeaten in conference play and tied atop the league standings with Oak Harbor one game into the second half of the conference schedule.
The Panthers (7-1, 7-1) fell into third place in Wesco 3A/2A, a game behind the Eagles and Oak Harbor.
SETTING THE TONE
After falling behind 3-0 to start the first set, Arlington rallied for nine of the next 13 points. Both teams went back and forth from there, with neither squad scoring more than three straight points. The Eagles grinded it out and scored the set’s final three points for 25-22 victory, handing the Panthers their first set loss of the season.
“Extremely important, especially against a big crowd like that,” Bilby said. “We knew they were going to come out with a big crowd just like we did last year and we didn’t let it get to us, but getting that first set is like getting that first notch under your belt for sure.”
Snohomish shifted the momentum late in the second set with three straight points to tie up Arlington at 20. The Eagles called timeout and came out of the break on fire.
Arlington senior Julia Parra came up with an emphatic block to take a one-point lead, and Arlington scored the next four points to match their longest run of the night and take the second set 25-20.
“To be honest, I don’t even remember,” Williams said about what she told her team in the huddle. “But generally when it comes to that, it’s let’s just get back to what we know, take a moment to breath and we’ll just get after it and play our game and go have fun.”
The Eagles’ momentum carried over into the third set as they took the first four points of the frame.
STAYING IN IT ‘TIL THE END
Snohomish hadn’t dropped a set all season, and the Panthers never seemed to lose their fire while facing the most adversity they’d seen in a match. After falling behind 4-0 to start the third set, Snohomish battled back and forced Arlington into extra points before falling 26-24.
“That was great,” Snohomish coach Alex Tarin said of his team’s effort. “We had a chance to win. We just made a lot of bad mistakes at the wrong times.”
“We learned a lot from this game,” Bilby said. “We definitely saw some bigger blockers than we ever had, and I think that was our biggest struggle. So we take this game, put it into practice, watch the film and grind on it. … We expect to see them again in districts.”
Arianna Bilby, sr., Arlington
Bilby provided the Eagles with 11 kills, 18 digs, two blocks and two assists in the victory.
Emily Mekelburg, so., Arlington
Mekelburg had eight service aces, six kills, six digs and a block for the Eagles.
MacKenzie Whyte, jr., Snohomish
Whyte delivered 20 digs and 14 kills for the Panthers.