"We can't pass the ball."
Oak Harbor High School volleyball coach Kerri Molitor muttered the line after the Wildcats' 3-1 loss to visiting Mountlake Terrace Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Then she repeated the statement twice more for emphasis.
Oak Harbor's inability to pass, particularly on serve receive, to set up its offense has been a constant problem for the Wildcats all season.
Lack of accurate passing inhibits the Wildcats' chances of getting the ball to one of the Western Conference's top offensive weapons, Kayleigh Harper.
"Kayleigh's hitting efficiency is through the roof when we pass well," Molitor said.
"If we pass the ball, we can beat any of those teams," Molitor said in reference to a series of close losses.
Molitor and her club are frustrated, winning only one of eight matches and 1-2 in Wesco play.
The Wildcats have only one win, but did capture the Lynden Tournament earlier this season. Molitor insists her team has enough talent to contend for a playoff spot, but it has to get over its passing bugaboo and team chemistry issues.
"We are also working hard on team dynamics and have made some positive headway," she said.
The Mountlake Terrace match continued the trend of tense matches that Oak Harbor can't quite complete.
The Hawks won 25-22, 25-22, 17-25, 25-23.
The first two sets followed similar paths. Oak Harbor came back from a 7-3 deficit in game one to tie the game at 20, but the Hawks rallied for the win.
The Wildcats trailed 12-8 in the second set, knotted the game at 22, then wilted at the end again.
Game three was tied at 11, then Oak Harbor steadily pulled away for the only "easy" win of the night.
Game four went back and forth, and Oak Harbor went up 22-20 after a pair of Amelia Berner aces. Once again, the Hawks recovered to secure the win.
Harper topped Oak Harbor with 17 kills, four blocks and four aces.
Claire Anderson collected 11 kills and 11 digs.
Hailey Beecher handed out 37 assists and recorded a team-high 12 digs.
Makenna Martyn had 10 kills and Deanna Ruben 11 digs.
Madison Eich led the Hawks (3-0, 6-2) with 20 kills and 16 digs; Justine Kelly had 40 assists.
Glacier Peak (1-2, 2-6) visits Oak Harbor at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10.
(Amelia Berner (left), Natalie McVey and Aubrey Lock celebrate an Oak Harbor point in Tuesday's match.)