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Coupeville senior Scout Smith, the ultimate warrior. (Charlotte Young photo)

Embrace the good times…

and remember the joy. (Brian Vick photos)

There was pain in the thousand-yard stares, in the slump of their shoulders, in the shiners under their eyes.

But there was pride, too.

Strong, feisty, whip-smart, deeply committed to each other, in good times and rough times, Coupeville’s varsity volleyball players were undone, but unbowed.

They were battered, exhausted, numb, trapped in an unfair ending to what has been a brilliant season.

But they never took a knee. They stood tall, as individuals and a team, united for life.

The eight splendid seniors on the Coupeville High School volleyball squad, their four fast-rising underclassmen teammates, and their coaching staff, didn’t get the reward they deserved Tuesday night.

A team which tied the program’s single-season win record fell twice in day two of the District 1 tournament, nipped in a pair of five-set thrillers in which the Wolves actually won more points than both their foes.

Up two sets to one in both matches, Coupeville couldn’t hold on against either dangerous Meridian or plucky Sultan, and fell just short of advancing to bi-districts.

The hurt is real, physical and emotional.

Speaking as an admittedly biased observer, the Wolves deserved to keep playing.

They left every last ounce of sweat on the court this season, fought with everything they had in their hearts and souls, both Tuesday and in the two months leading up to the finale.

Finishing 14-5, the 2019 Wolves tie the 2004 CHS squad for wins.

That they didn’t get to 15 victories stings.

But it doesn’t erase everything which came before.

It can’t, because these young women are too strong, too talented.

This season, this high school volleyball experience, was a huge part of their lives. The mix of joy and pain will be with them for a very long time.

Scout Smith. Zoe Trujillo. Maya Toomey-Stout. Willow Vick. Hannah Davidson. Raven Vick. Emma Mathusek. Lucy Sandahl. Lucy Tenore. Kylie Chernikoff. Chelsea Prescott. Maddie Vondrak.

Twelve young women who soared athletically.

Twelve young women who helped take their program to new heights, on and off the floor.

Twelve young women who reached out to the next generation of Coupeville spikers, through clinics and through the positive image they showcased each time they pulled on their Wolf uniforms.

Twelve young women, who I hope can embrace the words of their head coach, Cory Whitmore.

“We had a beautiful season, and our seniors had beautiful careers. I hope they remember the success they had and think of it fondly, instead of being fixated on how it ended.”

It was a season in which the Wolves went 8-2 in North Sound Conference play, losing only to undefeated King’s, claiming second-place in the six-team league for a second consecutive year.

Coupeville also prospered despite a lopsided schedule which sent it on the road for 11 of 19 matches, finishing a very-strong 9-2 in road rumbles.

The season ended for the Wolves in their own gyms, backed by the roar of a packed, pro-Coupeville crowd.

In the end, CHS held a 206-184 edge in points Tuesday, beating Sultan 107-89 and Meridian 99-95. It wasn’t enough, however.

Meridian, which hails from the always-tough 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference, is led by splendid sophomore setter Malaysia Smith (daughter of former CHS boys basketball coach Anthony Smith), and upset Lynden Christian, the #4 ranked team in 1A, earlier this season.

And yet the Wolves almost took them down, before falling 25-22, 13-25, 17-25, 25-17, 15-10.

The opening frame set the tone for the match, with both teams swinging from their heels, swapping leads and highlight reel-worthy plays.

There were seven ties, the final at 21-21, and Coupeville had a four-point lead halfway through the set.

Sparked by a beautiful tip winner off of Davidson’s dangerous fingers, followed by back-to-back Earth-shaking kills by Trujillo, the Wolves were rumbling.

Meridian chased down a lot of shots which seemed like sure winners, however, and fought back to take the lead.

Proving they could also employ a bold, never-say-die style, the Wolves got a wicked service ace from Raven Vick, which crawled up a rival player’s arm and kissed her violently on the cheek as it skidded past.

Trujillo was playing out of her mind in the opening set, coming up with a sizzlin’ batch of kills, with the most electrifying one staving off a set point.

While Meridian escaped with a first-set win, Coupeville seized control of the match after that, using long, successful runs at the service line from Raven Vick, Toomey-Stout, and Prescott to thrash Meridian in the second frame.

Prescott, just recently returned to action after missing a month with a leg injury, ripped off eight straight points on her serve to ice the set.

She got some help from her teammates, with Smith making a spectacular save while flat on the floor, and Mathusek pulling another ball off the top of her shoelaces to keep a point alive.

With the crowd getting louder, and Meridian showing signs of cracking, the Wolves pushed their advantage in the third set, mixing zingers on their serve with mighty blasts on their kills.

Maddie Vondrak, living up to the potential nickname of “The Mad Masher,” abused the volleyball, then danced away, grinning and pumping her hands in the air, while Toomey-Stout flat-out knocked the air out of the orb with each hit.

But Meridian didn’t get to where it’s at by giving up, and the Trojans dug down deep to get back in the match.

Other than a couple sweet service winners from Sandahl, and a brutal slicer by Trujillo which peeled the skin off of a Meridian player’s arms as she tried, and failed, to return the ball, most of the fourth set highlights came courtesy the visitors.

All of which set up the first, but not last, fifth set the Wolves would play this season.

Mathusek, maybe the most underrated player on the roster, doesn’t get much of the stat glory, but she has been indispensable as the team’s libero.

The glue which holds together the Wolves, she was as good Tuesday as she’s ever been, and a play at the start of the final set showcased why.

Meridian had the point won, and yet Mathusek, sliding across the floor, got her fist under the ball at the last split-second, flipped it skyward, then narrowly avoided crashing into a falling teammate.

Given new life, the Wolves not only kept the play alive, but won the point, with Toomey-Stout pulling the trigger on a nasty kill a few second later.

Off to the side, Mathusek jumped, pumped her fist, then quietly went back to being quietly awesome, the perfect unsung, but not unrecognized, warrior.

A 3-0 lead for CHS slipped into a 3-3 tie, then 4-4, then 5-5, then 6-6, before things slipped away from the Wolves.

Davidson delivered a rolling roundhouse of a kill late, but it was one play, when Coupeville needed, and couldn’t quite find, two or three at the very end of crunch time.

Their backs to the wall after the loss, needing a win to keep their season alive and capture a ticket to bi-districts, the Wolves moved from the CHS gym to the smaller, steamier CMS gym, and showed no signs of a letdown.

But it wasn’t enough in a frustrating 26-24, 10-25, 13-25, 25-21, 15-12 loss that brought an unexpected end to a rollicking season.

Coupeville came out hot, stayed hot, and led through 98.7% of the first set.

It was just that last 1.3% which hurt, and hurt badly.

Up 23-17, the Wolves seemingly put point #24 in the books, only to have the Turks somehow scrape the ball off the floor, force an intense rally, and end things with a stunning block.

Given new life, Sultan shocked the fans, and even themselves a little bit, by closing the set on a 9-1 run, and suddenly Coupeville found itself in an unexpected hole.

To which the Wolves immediately responded, savaging the Turks in spectacular fashion over the next two sets.

The second frame was all-Prescott, all the time, as the Wolf junior opened the set with a scorching ace, then closed things with a run of 12 straight points on her serve.

That surge featured Tenore, the fab frosh who is the bright future of the program, delivering a knee-buckling kill, and Toomey-Stout erasing the back line from existence by blasting a winner which tore all the paint off said line.

If the second set was quick and brutal, the third set was almost identical, a merry mix of big hits from Vondrak, artful tips from Davidson, and superb serves from Raven Vick.

Victory was in sight, but the Turks, the #5 seed from the North Sound Conference, are the Cinderella team of these playoffs, having already eliminated third-seeded Cedar Park Christian.

Proving it wasn’t a fluke, Sultan toppled Coupeville, the #2 seed, by being patient, keeping everything in play, and getting some major paint peelers from its big hitter in the front row.

Coupeville trailed from start to finish in the fourth set, and while the Wolves held off four set points, this was a night which begged to go on and on forever.

Anxious to get their second and third set mojo back, the Wolves came up empty in the 10th set they played Tuesday night.

Playing to 15, there were three ties, at 6-6, 7-7, and, finally, 12-12, but otherwise Coupeville was fighting from behind at every other instance in the final frame.

Sultan lost its opener Tuesday in three quick sets to Nooksack Valley, and seemed far fresher at the end, with more of a spring in their collective steps.

The Wolves looked tired, and kills which once seemed automatic went long, or fell into the net at the very end.

Sandahl, making her final trip to the stripe as a high school player, gave CHS a fighting chance with a couple sharp serves, but Coupeville couldn’t hold off the end as it came creeping steadily closer.

The season closed with a loss, yes. But it didn’t close with losers.

Twelve young women, under the guidance of Whitmore and assistant coaches Chris Smith and Krimson Rector, rose to new heights.

Conquered new worlds.

Continued to lay the foundation for a resurgent program, winners of 49 varsity matches in the past four seasons, primed for more success moving forward.

They walked out of their gym winners, no matter what the scoreboard might say.

I hope they always remember that.

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Freshman Lucy Tenore had several big plays at the net Saturday as Coupeville High School volleyball opened district play. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Lucy Sandahl is one of eight Wolf seniors chasing a final run at spiker glory.

Saturday was a day of spikes, surprises and split decisions.

But mostly, it was a day of surviving.

Getting stronger as the afternoon unfolded, the Coupeville High School volleyball squad rebounded from a morning loss to Nooksack Valley and knocked arch-rival South Whidbey out of the district playoffs.

With the split — a 25-7, 25-15, 26-24 loss to the Pioneers followed by a 25-13, 25-16, 29-27 win over the Falcons — the Wolves advance to day two of districts, a win away from making it to bi-districts.

At 14-3, the current spikers tie the 2004 Wolf squad for the best single-season record in program history, and now get two shots on their home floor Tuesday to take sole possession of the record.

Coupeville plays Meridian at 5 PM, while Nooksack faces off with surprise qualifier Sultan (the Turks shocked Cedar Park Christian Saturday) at the same time.

One contest will be in the CHS gym, the other across the hall in the CMS gym.

The winners play at 6:30 in the 3rd/4th place contest, while the losers vie in the 5th/6th place showdown.

King’s and Lynden Christian, which both went 2-0 Saturday, square off in the district title match at 8 PM.

The top five finishers advance to bi-districts, which pit District 1 (North Sound Conference and Northwest Conference) against District 2 (Emerald City League).

That tourney has matches Nov. 7 and 9, with five berths to the state tourney at stake.

 

The brackets:

Districts:

http://www.nscathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=3120&sport=10

Bi-Districts:

http://www.nscathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=3129&sport=10

 

Saturday’s action was all about cutting eight teams down to six, and the Wolves spent the day camped out in Lynden Christian’s cramped middle school gym.

 

Nooksack Valley:

Something was terribly off at the start of this one, as a combination of nerves, an unfamiliar gym, the aftereffects of a bus ride, insufficient calories ingested pre-match, or the knowledge clocks would be turned back soon conspired to derail the Wolves.

The less said about the first set, the better, as nothing remotely worked for Coupeville.

A team which thrives on its service game didn’t score a point off a serve until it already trailed 24-6 and a sense of shell-shock pervaded the gym.

But then things steadily got better.

Chelsea Prescott, playing for the first time in nearly a month after working her way back from a terrible leg injury, gave the Wolves their first lead of the day at 2-1 in the second set.

While CHS ultimately couldn’t hold on to the early advantage, it did start to get much more consistent play.

Scout Smith and Hannah Davidson combined on a resounding block, Zoe Trujillo painted the back line with a winner, and Maddie Vondrak and Maya Toomey-Stout tip-toed through the air to deliver pretty lil’ tip winners.

Buoyed by a return to more of a normal state, the Wolves pushed the Pioneers hard in the final set.

Jumping out to a 7-1 lead on quality serving from Smith and Prescott, Coupeville held strong when Nooksack made a push to get back to 10-10.

A rolling roundhouse of a kill from Davidson was huge, while Smith peppered an ace off the very last bit of paint on the back line to force the final tie of the match, at 15-15.

While Nooksack started to slowly pull away, it couldn’t get the lead over one or two points until a late surge staked the Pioneers to a 24-20 lead.

Staring down an all-but-certain loss, the Wolves rose to the occasion, thrilling their coaching staff, and the large collection of CHS fans who traveled up towards Canada on a cool, but sunny weekend day.

Holding off four straight match points, Coupeville refused to break.

Zoe Trujillo delivered back-to-back big kills (the second set up by a sensational running save from Lucy Sandahl), Vondrak mashed the air out of the ball on another put-away, then Smith zipped another ace off the back line.

The Pioneers proved to be too powerful, but, even on the final point of the match, Wolf senior Emma Mathusek sold out, hitting the floor with a thunk while scraping the ball off the floor to give her team one final moment of life.

 

South Whidbey:

Having gone from awful to inspired across the three sets of the opening loss, Coupeville carried the momentum into their third match-up this season with their next door neighbors.

This one largely played out like the regular season bouts between the squads, with a game, but young, Falcon squad willing to scrap, but unable to slow down a veteran Wolf unit.

Raven Vick and Sandahl went on torrid runs at the service stripe in the opening set, punctuated by Toomey-Stout ripping off her jersey to reveal the Superman costume underneath.

Operating in full “Maya: Destroyer of Worlds” mode, she left scorch marks on the ball, her kills so explosive they scarred the psyches of not only the Falcon defenders, but also those of their yet-to-be-born children.

In the midst of the senior sensation being … sensational … Wolf freshman Lucy Tenore delivered some big-time moments as well, stuffing shots and slamming home winners.

After polishing off the first set in fairly short order, Coupeville kept revving the gas pedal in frame two, this time with Toomey-Stout unleashing aces from the service line.

The most-powerful of her cannon shots was an ace which literally bounced off a Falcon face, and the rout was on.

But give the scrappy Falcons credit, because they never quit and played quite well during a third set which turned out to be its own mini-classic.

The teams traded leads, big-time kills, and incredible hustle plays, but saved the best for the end.

Trailing 24-21 after a Toomey-Stout put-away, South Whidbey rallied to not only hold off three straight match points, but rebounded to claim the lead not once, not twice, but three times.

Proving just as resilient under pressure, Coupeville also refused to take a knee, holding off three set points as the Falcons tried to push things to a fourth set.

With both teams on edge, and both fan bases waging a war to see who could chew off their collective fingernails first, the match was decided by a player many thought we wouldn’t see Saturday afternoon.

Prescott, a three-sport star who combines silky smoothness with often startling power, took a nasty fall during Coupeville’s match with King’s in early October, and ended up with a ginormous knot on her ankle.

To the surprise of no one, she immediately began to work to return.

To the surprise of many, she overcame the reality of leg injuries, and actually made it back just in time for the postseason.

While she didn’t play all six positions Saturday, as CHS coach Cory Whitmore gently worked her back into the lineup, Prescott’s presence provided an emotional surge for the Wolves, and gave them back one of their most-dangerous weapons.

Stepping to the line with the score knotted at 27-27, the Wolf junior ended the match with a wham-bam-let’s-head-for-the-bus-and-then-Panda-Express combo.

Her first serve was returned into the net, her second was returned right onto the madly-swinging arm of Toomey-Stout, who hopped through the gym roof as she lashed a set, and match, ending kill.

South Whidbey is a quality team, with promising young stars in six-foot freshmen Morgan Batchelor and Isabelle Wood. The Falcons will be back, and they will be dangerous.

But this is the final ride for Coupeville’s eight splendid seniors — Sandahl, Smith, Toomey-Stout, Mathusek, Raven and Willow Vick, Trujillo, and Davidson — and they aren’t done just yet.

On to Tuesday, on to play one more time in their own gym, on to write another chapter in their best-selling tale.

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Lucy Sandahl knows Coupeville volleyball needs two wins at districts to advance to bi-districts. (Brian Vick photo)

Senior setter Scout Smith is ready to lead her team into the fire. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Win, and win, again.

The Coupeville High School volleyball squad, flying high at 13-2, kicks off the postseason Saturday in Lynden needing at least one victory in two matches to keep playing.

Do that, and the Wolves come home next Tuesday, where they will again need at least one win in two matches to advance – this time to bi-districts.

The two-day District 1 tourney features eight schools fighting for five tickets to the District 1/2 bi-district rumble, with the North Sound Conference providing five of the eight competitors.

That’s thanks to NSC #5 seed Sultan dumping Mount Baker, the #4 seed from the Northwest Conference, 3-1 Wednesday in a play-in match.

The biggest shocker in the final days of the regular season was South Whidbey, all but locked-in to a NSC #3 seed, falling on the road to Granite Falls, which entered play 0-9 in league play.

The loss drops the Falcons to a #4 seed, and puts them into the same bracket as #2 seed Coupeville.

For the next-door neighbors to play Saturday, they would both need to win or lose their openers in the morning.

Coupeville plays NWC #3 Nooksack Valley, while South Whidbey gets NWC #1 Lynden Christian.

While those matches are held in Lynden, the other half of the draw goes down Saturday in Shoreline, home of NSC #1 King’s.

The Knights face Sultan in the opener, with NSC #3 Cedar Park Christian lining up against NWC #2 Meridian.

It’ll be the first time these leagues have clashed this season on the volleyball court, as none of the teams crossed over during their non-conference schedules.

A breakdown of what you need to know headed into the two-day, three-city, eight-team district tourney:

 

What: District 1 volleyball tourney

 

When: Saturday and Tuesday, Nov. 2 and 5

 

Where: Saturday – Lynden Christian High School (515 Drayton St. in Lynden) and King’s High School (19303 Fremont Ave. N. in Shoreline); Tuesday – Coupeville High School (501 S Main in Coupeville)

 

Admission:

Adults and students w/o ASB — $7
Students w/ASB — $5
Children (ages 6-12) and Senior Citizens — $5
Children (0-5) — Free

 

Bracket:

http://www.nscathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=3120&sport=10

 

Team capsules:

Cedar Park Christian:

Season record: 10-6

League finish: #3 in 1A North Sound Conference

Sets W/L: 35-28

Coach: Julie Nelson

Seniors: Rachel Cumley, Marci Drews, Irena Korolenko, Kiara Renstrom

Mascot: Eagles

 

Coupeville:

Season record: 13-2

League finish: #2 in 1A North Sound Conference

Sets W/L: 39-10

Coach: Cory Whitmore

Seniors: Hannah Davidson, Emma Mathusek, Lucy Sandahl, Scout Smith, Maya Toomey-Stout, Zoe Trujillo, Raven Vick, Willow Vick

Mascot: Wolves

 

King’s:

Season record: 14-0

League finish: #1 in North Sound Conference

Sets W/L: 42-4

Coach: Bart Foley

Seniors: Ellie Gaenz, Alli Hansen, Olivia Hjelle, Ava Mason, Katy Rettenmier

Mascot: Knights

 

Lynden Christian:

Season record: 10-4

League finish: #1 1A team in 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference

Sets W/L: 33-17

Coach: Kimberly Grycel

Seniors: Brooklyn Bosman, Liv Mellema

Mascot: Lyncs

 

Meridian:

Season record: 10-5

League finish: #2 1A team in 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference

Sets W/L: 32-23

Coach: Shannon Claeys

Seniors: Ella Carpenter, Makenzie Flake

Mascot: Trojans

 

Nooksack Valley:

Season record: 8-6

League finish: #3 1A team in 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference

Sets W/L: 29-20

Coach: Katie Emmons

Seniors: Jasmin Harmon, Taylor Loreen, Kimberly Perry

Mascot: Pioneers

 

South Whidbey:

Season record: 5-9

League finish: #4 in 1A North Sound Conference

Sets W/L: 21-31

Coach: Mandy Jones

Seniors: Arianna Briggs, Alyssa Johnson, Kayla Knauer

Mascot: Falcons

 

Sultan:

Season record: 7-10

League finish: #5 in 1A North Sound Conference

Sets W/L: 27-37

Coach: Katie Power

Seniors: Talea Blasko, Lindsey Fleming, Madison Hauge, Hollee Seaward, Lydia Sorgen

Mascot: Turks

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Madison “The Mighty Masher” McMillan launched a triple and single, while also walking twice as Central Whidbey Little League rolled to a win Saturday in its district playoff opener. (Jackie Saia photo)

The bottom of the third inning changed everything.

One moment, the Central Whidbey Little League Majors softball team trailed visiting Sedro-Woolley by three runs Saturday in a district playoff game, the next moment it was cruising to a 12-5 win.

Sparked by a grandiose triple off the bat of Madison McMillan, fueled by smart, inventive base-running, and capped by a note-perfect bunt single from Allison Nastali, the frame was a game-changer.

And, with the win, the Hammerheads not only improve to 16-2, but move a win away from punching their ticket to the state tourney.

Central Whidbey rests Sunday, while Sedro and Skagit play a loser-out game at Coupeville’s Rhododendron Park.

The survivor of that contest advances to the championship round of the District 11 tournament, but will have to beat CWLL twice to qualify for state.

The Hammerheads just need one win on their home turf — either Monday or Tuesday night — and they’re off to the big dance.

The first pitch Monday will be fired at 6 PM.

Tuesday’s game, which is only necessary if Central Whidbey loses Monday, would repeat that start time.

Saturday, the Hammerheads might not have been perfect, but they played fairly flawlessly when it mattered most.

Sedro, coming off a big win Friday against Skagit, pushed two runs across in the top of the first, but Central shortstop Taylor Brotemarkle snuffed the rally with a sweet defensive play.

Going to her knees to trap a hot shot back up the middle, she sprung back up and lunged while charging forward, slapping the tag on the bag to beat the incoming runner by half a shoelace.

That lit a fire under her squad, with Hammerhead pitcher Chloe Marzocca promptly rearing back and closing the inning with a wham-bam-go-sit-down-ma’am strikeout of the next hitter.

It took Central a moment or two to figure out the Sedro pitcher, and how best to stay on the positive side of a somewhat abrasive home plate ump.

The Hammerheads scraped out a single run in both the first and second, knotting things back up at 2-2, but were derailed in both innings by said ump calling out runners for fairly innocuous infractions.

The first run came courtesy a booming ground-rule double by lethal lead-off hitter Savina Wells, followed by a bunt single dropped with precision by Mia Farris.

Brotemarkle came back around to kick off the chain of events which resulted in the second run.

While she struck out, which would have left the Hammerheads in a two-out, no-one-on-base hole in the bottom of the second, the ball skidded off the Sedro catcher’s glove.

After jumping approximately 10 feet in the air, Brotemarkle took off for first like a runaway rabbit dodging a hungry bear, beating the throw as her mom, coaching at the bag, did a double fist pump.

After that, Jada Heaton slapped a chopper off the first-baseman’s glove for a single, Katie Marti eked out a walk, before Wells came though with a scorcher of an RBI single.

The lanky Coupeville 6th grader pasted the ball with a vengeance, tattooing Sedro’s third-baseman with a low, screaming liner, and it looked like the Hammerheads were about to explode.

Enter the ump, and exit the rally.

A somewhat questionable call from an ump who likes to hear himself talk erased what would have been a Mia Farris single, and prematurely ended the inning.

That set up Sedro for its moment in the (blazing) sun, but the visitors didn’t get as much as they might have hoped.

They scored three in the top of the third to take a 5-2 lead, but it was little more than a mirage.

McMillan, patrolling right field, speared a ball that had extra bases written on it (apparently in erasable pencil…), Central escaped without too many feathers ruffled, and Sedro got ready to fall off the face of a cliff.

It didn’t come all in one play, but slowly, steadily, as Central Whidbey asserted itself, hit after walk after strong defensive play.

In between, the Sedro coach got into an argument with one of her fans, and tried to get said fan ejected from the premises, while Central coach Fred Farris calmly sipped water in his dugout and impersonated a cool cucumber.

Maybe he knew what was coming, maybe he’s just a good poker player.

The deluge started with McMillan, who knows that when you produce raw power, it involves making the softball frequently say “ow.”

Turning on a pitch like the heir to recently graduated CHS sluggers Veronica Crownover and Sarah Wright, McMillan, aka “The Mighty Masher,” beat the ever-livin’ snot out of the ball.

Her missile launch to left rose majestically, landed with a thump, and was still drawing “oohs” and “ahs” as she rumbled into third for a stand-up triple.

Central Whidbey was still down three runs at that moment, but all the air promptly went out of Sedro.

From there, the Hammerheads, a bold team on the base-paths, used their nimble toes to run the life out of the visitors.

McMillan scored on a passed ball, diving under the tag, while Marzocca, who walked in the next at-bat, evaded a tag on the base-paths on an ensuing steal.

With her pitcher having worked her way to third, Nastali dropped an RBI bunt single that was note-perfect (and almost as entertaining as dad Robert later juggling cookies in mid-air while trying, and failing, to snag a foul ball).

A double steal knotted the game at 5-5, before back-to-back passed balls allowed two more Hammerheads to scoot home.

While Sedro eventually escaped the inning, all its hopes and dreams on this day were slowly melting under an unforgiving sun.

Marzocca and Co. held their foes at bay in the second half, tossing three straight scoreless innings of work on the scoreboard from the fourth through the sixth.

Central Whidbey got nice defensive snags from Nastali, Farris, Brotemarkle, and Marti, and several laser throws from Blouin at third as they clamped down as a team.

“No one here is going to track and field, no one! There’s only one spring sport from now on, and it’s softball,” said Coupeville High School softball coach Kevin McGranahan, grinning while watching the slick glove work.

While the play in the field was lights out, the Hammerheads also got creative at the plate.

Blouin plated a run with a perfectly-placed RBI ground-out, while Brotemarkle matched her with a one-of-a-kind RBI bloop single.

The Hammerhead shortstop topped the ball, sent it gently skyward, then somehow, against all the rules of nature, got it to come to a complete stop in mid-air, then roll backward (still in mid-air), before crashing back to Earth in a two-inch safe place between the pitcher and three infielders.

That wasn’t the last run of the day — Blouin would do some more damage as Central tacked on its final two scores — but it was a perfect punctuation mark.

The Hammerheads finished in style, whacking 11 hits, walking 11 times, and seeing all 12 of their players reach base at least once.

Wells (2B, 1B, 1B), McMillan (3B, 1B), and Mia Farris (1B, 1B) led the hit parade, with Blouin, Heaton, Nastali, and Brotemarkle all adding a base-knock apiece.

McMillan, Teagan Calkins, Mayleen Weatherford, and Aleksia Jump each walked twice.

Central’s battery was in especially fine form Saturday, as Marzocca whiffed nine, and Wells, who only joined the team recently, caught and called a fairly flawless game.

“I don’t think Savina let a single ball get past her today,” Fred Farris said. “She caught basically a perfect game, and that was while calling almost all the pitches herself.

“I don’t remember ever seeing that as a coach.”

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After finishing second at the district tourney, Mollie Bailey and Coupeville softball are state-bound. (Karen Carlson photo)

Trust me, it’s not that bad.

Yes, the Coupeville High School softball squad fell 10-2 to Lynden Christian Saturday in the District 1 title game at Sedro-Woolley’s Janicki Fields.

But never forget, the Wolves were playing with house money.

They had already clinched a trip to state, their first visit to the big dance since 2014 and only the third in the program’s 41-year history, after winning Thursday against Meridian and Granite Falls.

Coupeville, 14-8 on the season after losing for the first time in its last seven games, is Richland-bound, one of 16 teams with a chance of winning a 1A state crown during the May 24-25 championships.

And also, while the Wolves lost Saturday, they did not get emotionally savaged like North Sound Conference mates Granite and Cedar Park Christian.

The Tigers, who two weeks ago seemed like a slam dunk to win the NSC title, until Coupeville ruined that for them, completed a late-season collapse with a 14-1 loss to CPC Saturday in a loser-out game.

But, before you get ready to congratulate the Eagles, just know that two hours later, Cedar Park suffered one of the worst gut-shots I’ve ever witnessed on a high school field.

CPC went into the bottom of the seventh leading Mount Baker 8-5 in the 3rd place game, then got two outs.

Players on the Eagles bench were openly discussing not whether they WOULD celebrate, but HOW they would celebrate, when they got out #21 and clinched the district’s third, and final, berth to state.

And then? Oh, my sweet lord…

Four consecutive plays from Hell itself killed the Christians (metaphorically, at least).

A throw went off the Cedar Park first baseman’s glove for an error.

An outfielder went to squeeze a fly ball in left-center and it somehow squirted free for another error.

The third-baseman reached down for a grounder, only to have the ball skitter off her foot, her arm, and her glove as it endlessly ricocheted.

With the game suddenly tied, Cedar Park had one small sliver of hope. Get the third out and at least it could regroup in extra innings and…

Nope.

The very next pitch sailed 10 feet past the Eagle catcher, the winning run scampered home, Mount Baker tried to decide if it was more stunned or joyous and chose joyous, and the bus ride back to Bothell suddenly became a journey no one wanted to take.

It was the kind of ending to a game, a season, a career for some Cedar Park players, that will likely hurt forever.

Heck, it scarred me, and I didn’t really care who won the game.

Most of all though, at least for Coupeville players, coaches, fans, and hanger-on’s, it was solid proof that the Wolf loss was nothing to be too troubled about.

Like I said, there’s plenty of season left for the Cow Town sluggers, who lived up to their #1 seed, and merely ran into a very-efficient team from a school which has a trophy case the size of Mount St. Helens (before it blew its top).

Lynden Christian pumps out one scary-good player after another, two dozen at a time, and regardless of what their record might be, you can always count on the Lyncs to operate with a championship mindset.

But, clean up a few mental mistakes, get the normally red-hot bats smokin’ a little earlier than happened Saturday, and if Coupeville meets Lynden at state, there’s nothing to fear.

The two teams dueled through a scoreless tie until the top of the fourth, as Wolf freshman hurler Izzy Wells matched up well with Lync senior pitcher Anny Jansma.

Wells limited Lynden to a walk in the first, stranded two runners in the second thanks to back-to-back strikeouts, then buzzed the Lyncs in order in the third.

Jansma was no slouch, suffering only a first inning walk to Chelsea Prescott and a third-inning single which tore off of Scout Smith’s bat and slammed off the pitcher’s foot before redirecting into right field.

Things finally broke in the top of the fourth, when Lynden dumped a two-out, two-run single into shallow right field, the ball splashing down just inches away from two Coupeville defenders.

Even when the Lyncs added a run in the top of the fifth to push the margin to 3-0, the game still seemed very winnable for Coupeville.

It was a bit troubling that the Wolves could only scrape out a Prescott single in the fourth, and nothing in the fifth.

But, even though it hadn’t pushed a runner past first base through five frames, Coupeville’s offense has been so torrid recently, a comeback never seemed out of the picture.

Until the wheels fell off in the sixth.

Four Lynden hits, mixed with a few mental mistakes from the Wolves, let the Lyncs slap five runs on the scoreboard, turning a taut thriller into more of a run-away, and it was fatal.

With the odds not in its favor, Coupeville finally broke through against Jansma in the bottom of the sixth, but the Lync hurler denied them a game-busting rally.

Smith singled to open the inning, then, after she was forced at second on a fielder’s choice grounder, Emma Mathusek became the first Wolf to visit a base other than first.

The Wolf junior trotted down to second when Prescott was plunked on the foot, before skittering home on an RBI single by catcher Sarah Wright.

Then came a walk to Veronica Crownover, followed by a second RBI single, this one from Coral Caveness, who was one of several Wolves rockin’ the bare shoulders, gun show look while playing under a blazing Sedro sun.

Two runs in, bases juiced, and the rally caps started to tentatively come out for Wolf Nation, but Jansma was having none of it.

Rearing back and flinging liquid heat, she whiffed her fellow pitcher to end both the inning and the threat, and that was pretty much it.

Lynden tacked on another two runs in the seventh, benefiting from a blown pickle play by the Wolves and a bloop single, and Coupeville was unable to pull off any final inning magic.

The Wolves did get their first two hitters aboard, with Chloe Wheeler walking and Smith spanking a ball to right which was dropped, but Jansma quickly reverted to lights-out mode.

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