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Owen Barenburg played strong defense Thursday, but Coupeville fell 3-1 to Providence Classical Christian. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Wolf goalie Logan Martin had several strong saves in net. (Morgan White photo)

It was a gentleman’s brawl.

In the end, the more-physical team won Thursday, and, unfortunately that squad was not the one wearing the red and black of Coupeville High School.

Pushed around a bit by visiting Providence Classical Christian, the plucky Wolves put up a good fight, but ultimately fell 3-1 in Northwest 2B/1B League action.

The loss drops Coupeville to 1-2 on the pandemic-shortened season, with two games left on the schedule.

First up is Senior Night Monday, May 3, with Orcas Island coming to Whidbey, before the Wolves cap their campaign with a trip to La Conner May 5.

Still, even after a loss, there was much to be happy about.

Starting with the fact Coupeville was out there on the field playing after being hit by the double whammy of a pandemic and the program being shut down for a week-plus when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough players to field a team.

While Providence controlled the pace of the game, and sent more than a few Wolves crashing down to kiss the grass, Coupeville didn’t go gently into that good night.

Seniors Sam Wynn and Owen Barenburg brought considerable heat to bear on the visiting Highlanders in the backfield, with both Wolf defenders crashing hard to blunt multiple scoring opportunities.

“We NEVER stopped fighting and playing, which is most commendable,” said CHS coach Robert Wood. “Good defense stopped a lot of attacks.

“Very happy with the seniors for controlling the back players and all the attacks.”

PCC, a small 1B school which hails from Bothell, is one of three schools, with Grace Academy and Cedar Park Christian-Lynnwood, which join the NWL for boys soccer.

The Highlanders have the look of year-round pitch warriors, and, give them credit, they took advantage of their opportunities.

After poking a goal into the net in the 7th minute of the game, PCC added two more in the first half to take a 3-0 lead in at the break.

Staying on the attack for much of the first 40 minutes, the Highlanders laced multiple shots in the direction of first-year goaltender Logan Martin, and he made several nice saves, including one in which he sprawled out to snag a madly-curving ball.

Coupeville got a long run from Aidan Wilson, only to have his shot snuffed at the last second by the PCC goalie, but it was the Wolf defenders who had the biggest first-half plays.

On one play, Wynn, going one-on-one with his man in the deep left corner, spun his rival around, pickpocketed the ball, and was gone before the PCC player stopped spinning and fell down with a gentle plop.

The Wolves finally got on the board in the game’s 53rd minute, when Wilson converted on a penalty kick, pasting a booming shot into the top right corner of the net.

The speed-demon sophomore, who leads CHS with three goals this season, had a second PK, but the PCC goalie got an arm on the ball, and knocked it wide of the net.

While the Wolves received two penalty kicks, a person could be forgiven for thinking maybe they deserved more, as there was a fair amount of elbows and knees flying, with players sent sprawling.

The answer, likely, is to toughen up their own style of play.

“Totally bums me out when they let another team bully them,” Wood said. “Obviously we need to work on being strong against bigger players … especially on “free” balls in our own 18-yard box.

“We could play them all year long and beat them every time if we could JUST MOVE TO THE BALL!!!!,” he added. “But when you leave holes in the middle because someone is not doing their job … well … you get punished.”

With a young, resilient Wolf team at his beck and call, Wood and his crew will look to bounce back quickly, however.

“Tomorrow’s a new day … a day of rest before we focus on Orcas.”

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Aidan Wilson assisted on Coupeville’s goal Tuesday afternoon. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

That score hit the back of the net after coming off Xavier Murdy’s foot.

Both teams got a bit lucky.

For the Coupeville High School boys soccer squad, just getting back on the pitch Tuesday was a win in itself, as the Wolves had a 10-day gap between games due to other schools cancelling.

For their opponents, Mount Vernon Christian, the luck showed up on the scoreboard, as a couple of perfect bounces on busted plays sent the hometown Hurricanes to a 3-1 win.

The loss drops Coupeville to 1-1 during this pandemic-shortened season, but its next two games should arrive a lot sooner, and both will be at home.

The Wolves host Providence Classical Christian Thursday (kickoff is 6 PM), then welcome Orcas Island to Whidbey May 3.

The latter of those games will be Senior Night for Coupeville.

Tuesday afternoon, the Wolves didn’t show any rust, coming off the bus with legs already swinging.

Sam Wynn and Owen Barenburg were “hammering balls everywhere” according to CHS coach Robert Wood, and Coupeville got on the board first.

The score came at the 10-minute mark of the first half, with Aidan Wilson delivering a crisp center cross to Xavier Murdy, who promptly blasted the ball into the back of the waiting net.

It was the second goal of the season for X-Man, tying him with Wilson for the team lead in scoring, and the third of his prep career.

Mount Vernon Christian countered with a goal mere seconds before halftime, getting “a lucky deflection” to knot things up headed into the break.

The Hurricanes then took advantage of several second-half penalty kicks to surge ahead and stay ahead.

The game-busting goal actually came off of a second-shot chance after Wolf goalie Logan Martin blocked the penalty kick, before MVC salted the lead away with a late-game penalty kick which found its way into the net.

Still, the young Wolves, who were facing a Hurricane squad which is “a premier team, with quality players,” had nothing to hang their heads about.

The final score wasn’t in their favor, but the improvement they showed on the pitch certainly was.

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Xavier Murdy, seen here in 2019, returned to the pitch Friday, scoring in a season-opening 3-0 win for Coupeville. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Just getting on the field was a win.

From a program seemingly dead in the water, to one which swept to a victory in front of its home fans, all in two weeks — welcome to the ever-evolving saga of Coupeville High School boys soccer.

Jump back to April 2, and the news was dark and depressing.

Unable to field a full roster, the Wolf booters were shut down before they could play their first game for new coach Robert Wood.

But fate held plenty of twists and turns, as a Covid outbreak forced Friday Harbor to cancel all fall sports … which eliminated boys tennis … which sent a handful of Wolf players to soccer.

Toss in a couple of 8th graders — allowed when a 2B school is struggling to field a full team — and Coupeville soccer was reborn.

Which brings us to Friday, opening night, a little later than first expected, but welcomed by all.

Unleashed on the pitch under a fairly-blazing sun, the Wolves rode the hot shooting touch of Aidan Wilson and Xavier Murdy to a 3-0 win over visiting Cedar Park Christian-Lynnwood.

Sitting at 1-0 in Northwest 2B/1B League play, with five games left in a pandemic-shortened season, Coupeville hits the road for its next two games, playing at Grace Academy and Mount Vernon Christian.

As he heads into the weekend, Wood, an easy-going soccer sage, was a man basking in the afterglow of victory, while realizing it is just a small piece of the puzzle.

“VERY happy with the play we showed today as a TEAM,” he said. “Wins are fine … losses are fine … but I’m watching how we PLAY, because wins/losses come and go, but the recovery from one to the other is what a TEAM and a season are about.”

Getting that first W against a private school from the heart of elite soccer was extra-nice, however.

“Tough opponent from off-Island in the middle of the Rush Select Soccer recruiting area, so the results tonight are wonderful, and a huge confidence booster for the team,” Wood said.

Coupeville struck first, and last, but didn’t make the scoreboard jump until late in the first half.

After 28 minutes of the two teams slugging it out, with neither able to break through the opposing team’s defense, the Wolves got a break when they were awarded a penalty kick.

Wilson, a standout distance runner who was making his CHS soccer debut after his freshman season was erased by the pandemic last spring, ambled to the ball, then struck like a coiled snake.

Punching the ball to the corner of the net, he made the CPC goalie look slow, and set off the first, but not last, celebration of the night.

Not content to stay with a single score, Wilson struck again five minutes later, slapping a back-breaker of a second goal to pad the lead.

With Coupeville’s defense playing rough ‘n ready, and goalie Logan Martin in lockdown mode behind them, CPC didn’t have a chance to play catch-up.

But, just to make sure, Murdy broke free late in the game, angling a ball past the diving goaltender to record his first goal of the season, and second of his prep career.

Like most coaches, Wood enjoyed the high points, while also seeing the areas he wants his players to improve.

“So very much we still need to work on,” he said with a chuckle. “But just being a team again is wonderful, and we wouldn’t be here without the desire of the kids to continue the sport.

“I support them in ANY sport they play, any, not just the beautiful game, but having a TEAM right now makes it so beautiful.”

The rebuilt roster boasts a lot of youth, with just two seniors in Owen Barenburg and Sam Wynn.

Toss in juniors Martin and Murdy, and 10 of the 14 Wolves are sophomores or younger.

Cameron Epp, Aidan Wilson, and Jesse Wooten rep the 10th grade class, with freshmen Cole White, Ryan Blouin, Nathan Ginnings, Nick Guay, and Andrew Williams joined by 8th graders Cael Wilson and Preston Epp.

“It’s an amazing rollercoaster of emotion,” Wood said. “Having to tell your players “we don’t have a team,” then recalling them five days later based on a rumor, then forming, storming, and norming, and winning our first competition against an unknown opponent.

“Very happy with the results, but I’m most happy about our team and the way we played together.

“What comes next? Time to study, practice the basics, work on our weaknesses, solidify and expand our strengths.”

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