Arlington wins 2, plays Peninsula at state in Yakima (slide show)

MARYSVILLE – After losing its first match of the season, Arlington had to make state the hard way.

But the Eagles made it look easy anyway, winning two matches Saturday to place third at districts to advance to state.

After falling to Ferndale Thursday, Arlington beat Shorecrest 3-0 and Oak Harbor 3-0 Saturday.

Now 17-1, Arlington advances to state at Yakima. The Eagles play at 8 a.m. Friday against Peninsula. The girls could get some revenge for the Eagle football team, which was knocked out of the state playoffs by Peninsula just a week ago.

Against Shorecrest, the Eagles won 25-22, 25-17 and 25-19. Arianna Bilby led the team with 13 kills and 14 digs, along with four service aces. Emily Mekelburg had 8 kills, 5 digs and 2 aces. Reese Talbot added 6 kills, and Teagan Sutherland and Malia Shepherd each had 3 blocks. Taylor Pederson contributed 17 assists and 6 digs, Brookelynn Ramey had 16 assists and Taylor Helle 14. Facing a second loser-out elimination game that day, the Eagles beat Oak Harbor 25-20, 25-7 and 25-19.

Bilby had 14 kills, 11 digs, 2 aces and a block, Mekelburg 10 kills, 3 aces and 6 digs, Pederson 20 assists and an ace, Ramey 14 assists and Julia Parra 3 aces and 2 blocks.

Thursday night was tougher as Arlington played a mirror-image of themselves and found out why they have been just so hard to beat this year. They couldn’t do it, falling to Ferndale in four super-close sets 22-25, 28-26, 23-25 and 22-25. It was Arlington’s first loss of the year, and it came in the 3A District 1 Tournament semifinal, winner-to-state game.

Arlington had only lost four sets all year. But in playing Ferndale, it looked like they were playing themselves.

Both teams scored a number of points off powerful serves, or at least put the opposing team on the defensive. Both teams have strong offenses, with power hitters up front. The slight advantage to the Golden Eagles was on defense. They blocked some Arlington spikes that normally go for winners. And their back row also dug out some spikes that normally score points for the Eagles.

In the first set, Arlington fell behind 7-1, but made a comeback with junior Sutherland serving, making it 7-6. With sophomores Pederson and Mekelburg serving, Arlington took a 16-12 lead. But Ferndale came back to tie it at 18-18 before an ace at 20-19 gave them a lead they never relinquished.

The second set was even closer the entire way. Tough serves kept the Eagles in the game, while smartly played dinks and cross-court sets that are hard to defend kept Ferndale in it. Two kills by Mekelburg gave Arlington its biggest lead of the set at 21-17, but Ferndale came back to tie its biggest lead of the set at 23-21. In a back-and-forth battle at the end, serves by Parra, a spike by Bilby and a block by the Golden Eagles that went out of bounds clinched the 28-26 Arlington win.

But it was the only one the Eagles could muster. The final two games also were hard-fought, but Arlington fell just short.

Arlington coach Whitney Williams told The Herald the Eagles weren’t at the top of their game.

“I think we did the best that we could,” she said. “I think we capitalized on the things that we could. We just couldn’t execute on a real-high level tonight.”

Offensively, Bilby had 14 kills and Mekelburg 10, and they combined for 27 digs on defense.

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