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Archive for the ‘Volleyball’ Category

Sarah Wright, softball terminator. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Get you someone who looks at you the way Wright looks at confetti.

The Wright Express comes in hot.

“You’re running … ON ME???? Oh, you foolish child!”

A prairie legend forever.

Sarah Wright is a tornado of fun.

She blows through, rips up the joint, throws the furniture up on the roof, but leaves everyone smiling afterwards.

As I have covered her exploits through the years, from youth sports, to middle school, and then on through four fast n’ furious years of high school, she was as entertaining an athlete as any I’ve ever seen.

Talented? Without a doubt.

But with Sarah, it was always about how much fun she was having out there, whether it be a pressure-packed game at the state tournament, or a random practice on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the season.

She worked her tail off, fought for success, screamed her lungs out, and got every last scrap of enjoyment she could from her sports.

Volleyball to soccer, basketball to her truest love of them all, softball, Wright never lost the joy little league athletes have, even when she was finally old enough to work as their hitting coach.

Whether she was threatening to eat worms while watching her JV teammates play, laughing until she could barely stand, or feeding seagulls in the parking lot in between state playoff games, running and giggling as the birds pecked at her sandwich, Sarah was, and is, pure giddy joy.

Not that she couldn’t be deadly serious, mind you.

Wright sacrificed her body, time and again, and when it was time to compete, she wanted to win as badly as she wanted to enjoy life in her down time.

As a softball catcher, she bore the brunt of long hours hunched down in the dirt.

Her hands stinging from knocking down wayward balls, her body sore from standing tall and taking the brunt of the explosion when rival players were dumb enough to try and knock her down during plays at the plate.

During her travel ball tournaments, or during Coupeville’s playoff runs, you would see Sarah walk away, looking like a (sometimes very tired) warrior.

Eye black on, smeared by sweat and dirt, her uniform streaked in dust, her mitt in one hand, her mask in the other, she resembled a gladiator coming back from the pits and you knew she left a trail of bodies behind her.

And then, two steps later, she’d suddenly start laughing, and by the time she reached the dugout she was singing in a voice which carried across the field.

I watched Sarah win big games during her career, and take some tough losses, but, in the end, whether her heart was soaring or breaking, she was happy to be in that uniform, to have that mitt and mask, to just play.

She was a solid volleyball player, a take-charge soccer goalie, a pounder in the paint on the basketball court, but she was at home on the softball diamond.

She loved it, and it loved her back.

Knowing Sarah gets to play college softball, even if it will be far away from Coupeville, makes me happy.

It means she gets to keep cracking tape-measure home runs.

Or bashing doubles that she turns into triples, legs pounding as she comes crashing into third-base in a giant cloud of dust, followed by her looking up at CHS coach Kevin McGranahan with a huge grin and saying “I told you I’d make it … Keeeeevvvvviiiiinnn.”

She’ll be zinging throws from behind the plate, sprawled out, firing off the wrong leg and, somehow, still nailing straying runners.

“Another notch on the ol’ gun belt there, Kevin, my boy!”

Sarah stepped onto the CHS softball field and was a starter at the hardest position from day one of her freshman season.

The only thing which kept her waiting that long was the silly Washington state high school rule book, which prevented her from playing varsity high school ball during her middle school days.

Swap rule books with a state like Kentucky and she would have been making rival high school coaches rip out their hair back when she was 12.

Through it all, as Wright came within a play or two of making it to state as a sophomore and junior, then got over the hump as a senior, she was a bonafide leader.

Vocal, the very definition of loud ‘n proud, whether in the dugout, face first in the prairie dust, or running through the parking lot as the Seagull Queen, she will never truly be replaced.

Yes, someone else will be behind the plate next season, and in the years to come.

Hopefully they will have strong careers, and, hopefully, they will enjoy their days on the diamond as much as Sarah did hers.

But you don’t truly replace the legends.

Whether it’s Hailey Hammer, or Breeanna Messner, or Wright, after they’re gone, you can close your eyes the next time you’re in the stands at the CHS diamond, and you will see them still out there playing.

For now, she leaves her field, her town, but she’s not truly going anywhere, because our memories of her will last.

There was never really a doubt Sarah would one day be walking (actually, sprinting while giggling and throwing sandwich bits in the air) into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

I knew it when I watched her play in middle school and little league, and nothing changed my mind as she traveled her journey.

So, after this, you’ll find her at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

And, you’ll find her in the memories of Wolf fans.

Long after her last high school award, her final banquet, the last time she took off a Wolf uniform she wore with genuine pride and joy, Sarah will still be out there, gunnin’ and grinnin’ as the sun sets across the prairie.

Covered in dirt from head to toe, tackling her teammates in joy, standing on the dugout bench, batting helmet jammed backwards on her head, screaming “GET OFF HER, BALL!!!,” having the time of her life.

There is only one Sarah Wright, and we were very lucky to have her.

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Back row, l to r, are Anya Leavell, Lucy Tenore, Hannah Davidson, Scout Smith, Zoe Trujillo, Raven Vick, Chelsea Prescott, Cory Whitmore. Front, Emma Mathusek, Maya Toomey-Stout, Lucy Sandahl. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Young)

It’s been a busy summer so far for Cory Whitmore.

The Coupeville High School volleyball coach has been running around non-stop since school got out, bouncing from camp to camp.

Whether with the Wolves in Bellingham for the Western Washington University camp, or bouncing around the state by himself, it’s been a whirlwind.

Having been given a (brief) break, Whitmore filed this report from the bleachers in Pullman, where he was networking and coaching at the Washington State University camp.

WWU camp was fantastic.

The coaches, staff and players are very attentive to our goals and needs and run a well-organized and challenging camp.

They took us through some game challenges that extenuated strengths and exposed some weaknesses.

A big focus for us was to improve our attacking efficiency by creating comfortable serve receive options.

Losing Emma (Smith) and Ashley (Menges) (to graduation) meant that players had to step up from the JV speed to match the varsity game and expectations and I’m really excited about the ease in which players stepped up across the board.

We had seven seniors with us at camp and so the experience was extremely valuable to have, as there was a single junior, sophomore and freshman to round out our roster of 10.

We competed well and calmly and that’s a product of our senior leadership and experience.

This group works very well together already but we wanted to stress the productive communication and inclusivity of the entire team and we took great steps toward that goal.

Plenty to work on and we’re looking forward to the start of the season!

I’m really proud of how leaders stepped up and younger players followed.

Going to be a fun one with a great group! Go Wolves!

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Emma Smith, part of one of the prairie’s most-successful sports families, follows her grandfather and aunt into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Smith was a league, district, and bi-district champ in the shot put.

On the volleyball court, a Valkyrie unleashed.

Emma Smith was born to be good, but she made herself great.

Her grandfather, Steve, was one of the most physically-impressive athletes Coupeville has ever seen, and her aunt, Joli, remains, to this day, one of the most talented Wolves I have covered on a regular basis.

Toss in Emma’s parents, her sisters, her uncles, and her many, many relatives, and there is no question the Smith family can stand up there with the all-time success stories of prairie athletics.

So, she could have coasted. Could have let strong genes carry her to a certain point, and let it be.

But she didn’t.

Emma pushed beyond that, put in the work, year after year, practice after practice, camp after camp, road trip after road trip, and became a top-tier athlete.

She was often majestic on the volleyball court, rising up to the heavens to smash the ball, sending her rivals scrambling for cover and finding none.

Then, when spring came, you would find Emma off to the edges, lofting the shot put and letting the discus fly far away, content to bust PR’s in the relative quiet of field events.

Her track career ended, appropriately, with an especially-strong senior season, a campaign in which she torched the joint three weeks running.

Wins in the shot put at the league, district, and bi-district meet assured Emma of a trip to state (she also advanced in the discus), and gave her 10 first-place finishes during her high school days.

To that you can add five wins during her middle school career — three of those came in relays, proving she had speed to go with the upper-body strength — and you have a portrait of a track star who used her time and opportunities well.

But when we think of Emma, an intelligent, graceful young woman, what Wolf fans will remember most is her time on the volleyball court.

She is blessed with height, with reach, and with quick reflexes, and, to that, she added passion, heart, and fire.

On a volleyball court, Emma burned to be brilliant.

You could see it in how she carried herself, how she prepared, how she played.

During her junior season, Emma was an integral part of a Wolf squad which made it to the state tourney, the first CHS spiker unit to make the trek in 13 years.

Scan the stats for the past four seasons — she was the lone freshman listed on the full-time varsity roster back in 2015 — and her impact is obvious.

Playing alongside fellow big hitters like Katrina McGranahan and Maya Toomey-Stout, she rained down spikes, drilled winners, made the ball slash a chunk out of the court, then skid far, far away from the opposing team.

But while she could, and often did, fill up a stat sheet, Emma was someone you needed to see play in person to fully appreciate how good she was, and is.

She was an effective, often-dangerous, server, and someone who sold out time and again, fighting alongside long-time running mate and co-captain Ashley Menges, refusing to let plays die or big-name schools skate by on reputation alone.

The enduring image of Emma, though, will be of her elevating skyward, right arm swinging down to smash the air out of the volleyball, rival players scattering before a force of nature unleashed.

Well, that and her holding her niece after games while the lil’ girl beamed like 1,000 lights had all clicked on at once.

Emma is obviously a great aunt, and that image will endure, as well.

But, while the president of her fan club was being restrained in the stands, the image which transfixed Wolf fans, and rival coaches, who voted her as one of the league’s best, was of Emma going full-on Valkyrie.

No team felt the pain as much as South Whidbey, and the prairie terminator saved her greatest high school sports moment for the night of her 18th birthday — Sept. 25, 2018.

It was Armageddon, but bigger, with two high-flying teams going as toe-to-toe as you possibly can.

A look at the stat sheet afterwards showed the Wolves and Falcons virtually identical in every single category across five torrid sets.

The difference? Emma, having the sort of night every athlete should get at least once in their career.

I could recap it here, or you could go one better, bounce to https://coupevillesports.com/2018/09/26/there-can-only-be-one/, and marinate in the whole hyperventilating, hyperbole-filled article I wrote while the buzz of the gym was still reverberating in my ears.

It starts with “18 years to the day she was born, Emma Smith committed cold-blooded murder. And her mom loved every freakin’ second of it,” and then just keeps going bigger and bigger from there.

I like to think it’s a fitting testament to a young woman who is a great athlete, and a better person. Or, at least I hope so.

This article, the one you’re currently reading, is, probably quite obviously, a build-up to inducting Emma into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, the third entry from her immediate family.

After this you’ll find her at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab, right where she belongs, having earned her spot based on her play, her work, and her attitude.

I hope, as she goes forward and kills it in real life, she will occasionally look back and remember her prep sports days and nights.

I hope the good memories never fade for her, and that she will always take happiness in knowing how highly she was thought of by Wolf Nation.

And, one day, maybe when her own daughter takes the volleyball court for the first time, I hope Emma leans forward and whispers, “It’s going to be great. Your mom was a freakin’ Valkyrie, and you will be, too.”

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Allie Lucero will join twin sister Maya as freshmen at Coupeville High School this fall. (Photos courtesy Jess Lucero)

In between playing three sports, Lucero finds time to hang out with a wide variety of animals.

You name it, Allie Lucero is likely involved in it.

Much like twin sister Maya, she plays three sports, while also pursuing a wide range of activities from band to Girls Scouts and way beyond.

Which doesn’t mean Lucero can’t also find time to tend to a menagerie of animals.

She has her dog, Yadi, to play with, while also commanding an army of chickens and ducks the family raises.

Lucero, who will be a freshman at Coupeville High School in the fall, tabs language arts as her favorite class, and likes to “read, hang out with friends and family, paint, watch Netflix, cook, and garden.”

And, somehow, in the middle of all that, she finds the time to also be one of the town’s most-promising young athletes.

During her middle school days, Lucero played SWISH and school basketball, club and school volleyball, and little league softball.

She plans to stay true to all three sports as she hits the high school stage, which is great news for local fans, as she and Maya bring skill, determination, and a love of the game to everything they do.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Dane, who just graduated from CHS after playing football, basketball, and baseball, Allie is out to make a name for herself.

“It would be pretty memorable and awesome if I had a chance to go to state for any sport,” Lucero said.

“I would also like to make varsity on one or all of these sports throughout high school,” she added. “And, finally, I want to improve and succeed.”

Lucero, who springs from a family with a deep sports background, embraces the chance to be an athlete.

“I enjoy staying active and always learning new things as an athlete,” she said.

Turning lessons into improvement on the field or court is huge for Lucero.

“Some (of my) strengths as an athlete are staying positive and enthusiastic, and my level of commitment,” she said.

“My best skills are serving and setting in volleyball, and fielding and hitting in softball,” Lucero added. “Yet, there is always more that I can learn and improve on with these sports.”

She’s picked up these lessons from many people along the way, and approaches each practice, each game, eager to soak up knowledge.

“There are many people who have helped me become the athlete that I am today,” Lucero said. “My coaches, who have always helped me improve on what I needed work on.

“This includes my mom and dad, who have supported me ever since I started sports,” she added. “My dad has always given great advice, and something he says that I will always remember, is to become successful by doing the things that others aren’t willing to do.”

Being a twin, Lucero always has someone else close by who’s playing at the same level as she is, which is a nice built-in advantage.

Maya has also supported me and has practiced with me in our yard countless times.”

While she approaches all of her sports with an open heart and a gung-ho attitude, Lucero is most at home in the fall and spring.

“My favorite sports are softball and volleyball,” she said. “I love softball because I have played it since I was seven. I love the game, and I always have the best time hitting or fielding.

“Volleyball is also a favorite, because even though I haven’t played it for very long, it always excites me, and it never gets old or boring!,” Lucero added. “I love these sports because I can always explore improvements to make, and I find them super fun.”

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Maya Lucero keeps busy with a wide variety of activities, from playing three sports to participating in drama, band, and Girl Scouts. (Photos courtesy Jess Lucero)

Catching some quality time with dad Aaron on the softball diamond.

“I’m super busy, but I thrive on that.”

Try and keep a list of everything Maya Lucero does, and you’ll eventually end up flipping the paper over and still be writing.

Let’s just say Lucero, who will join twin sister Allie as freshmen at Coupeville High School this fall, likes to stay active.

She played basketball, volleyball, and softball through middle school and before, and plans to remain a three-sport athlete as she switches out CMS uniforms for CHS ones.

Toss in appearing in theater productions, playing trumpet in the band, Girl Scouts, cooking and baking, playing with her dog, going to the beach, and hanging out with friends and family, and Lucero’s schedule is booked.

But staying busy has helped her build a strong work ethic, something which has benefited her greatly in the past, and should continue to do so in the future.

“Some of my strengths as an athlete include my focus, commitment to my sports, and loyalty to my teammates and coaches,” Lucero said. “Being so dedicated is important, but not always easy.

“I always honor my obligations for team practices, volunteer work, training, and camps.”

That includes a recent four-day basketball camp in Soap Lake, “so I couldn’t submit my answers to you until now…,” she said with a laugh.

Lucero, who is following in the footsteps of older bother Dane, a 2019 Coupeville grad who was also a three-sport star, has been around athletics her entire life.

Dad Aaron is an assistant coach with the CHS baseball team, who pulled double duty this spring, working with Maya and Allie’s Central Whidbey Little League Juniors softball squad.

With the Lucero sisters ripping base-knocks to all fields, the young Wolves roared through a 13-1 season, and now will send a ferocious pack of hit-happy players on to the high school program.

Maya wants to “work my way to varsity, and to become stronger as an athlete,” and she credits her father with helping to shape her and fuel her dreams, both on and off the field.

“My dad has had one of the greatest impacts on me as a person and an athlete,” Lucero said. “He always pushes me to be my best, and has taught me mental toughness, perseverance, and determination.

“From the start, he has always supported me, led me through difficult times, and has always been at my side,” she added. “He is an amazing dad and softball coach.”

Lucero hails from a tight-knit, super-friendly family which includes mom Jess and two younger sisters, and having a large, loyal support crew is huge for the young Wolf.

Allie has also always been at my side and has always been there for me, no matter how hard things get sometimes,” Maya said. “Overall, my family has helped me to be my best self, and has always supported me and my passions.”

Lucero loves that sports allows her to be “active and competitive.”

And, while she approaches every season with joy, she’s clear – her #1 passion is being on the diamond every spring.

“Without a doubt, softball is my favorite sport of all,” Lucero said.

She’s played school and SWISH basketball, as well as school and club volleyball, but put a bat in her hand and she’s at home.

“It has been one of my greatest passions. I have been playing it since second grade, eight years old,” Lucero said. “I love softball because it’s not the type of sport that you can pick up easily.

“Softball is a difficult sport that teaches you determination, perseverance, to work hard, and to stay mentally tough. Not everyone can do that.

“I feel that softball is my strongest sport because I’ve played it longer, so I have a strong softball IQ.”

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