Posts Tagged ‘Fall Sports Preview’

Helen Strelow returns for another crack at capturing cross country glory. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Welcome to year five.

It may seem like just yesterday that Coupeville High School reactivated its cross-country program, but here we are, with the Wolves going strong and building on past success.

CHS sent three runners to the state meet a year ago — the program’s best showing since the 1980’s — and all three return for their senior season.

Helen Strelow is the defending Northwest 2B/1B League women’s champ, and she and Claire Mayne helped lead the Wolves to a team title.

Coupeville’s girls came within a single point of advancing to state as a team.

On the boys side of things, Mitchell Hall paced Coupeville to a second-place showing at the league championships, and a third-place finish at tri-districts.

That trio are joined by a strong group of returning runners and newbies.

Sophomores Landon Roberts, Thomas Strelow, and Carson Field are among those expected to have an impact for the Wolves, while George Spear and Zeke Allen are promising freshmen.

Thomas Strelow is part of a group of hard-working Wolf runners. 

Perennial powerhouse Mount Vernon Christian is Coupeville’s biggest league rival heading into a new season, but, as always, the Wolf runners largely control their own destiny.

“The goals for this season are to hopefully claim league champions and take as many runners to state as possible,” said Coupeville coach Paige Spangler.

“I really want the athletes to enjoy the season while still working hard and setting several personal records.”

The Wolf running guru, who is in her second year at the helm of the program, is excited to add “new speed work to our training program” to “put us in the best position to win.”

As her harriers prep to kick off their season — they debut at the Sehome Invite Sept. 10 — it’s all about getting better, race by race, practice by practice.

“The team has already shown how much they have improved from last year,” Spangler said. “They are really dedicated and spent their summer working hard.

“Everyone is pacing really quickly and it’s only the second week of the season.”

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Coupeville senior Lucy Crouch is a co-captain for the fall cheer squad. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They’re a sisterhood.

That’s the key to everything the Coupeville High School cheer squad does as it preps for a new school year.

“What we consider our biggest strength is our sense of sisterhood,” said assistant coach Tara Crouch.

“As coaches, we have worked diligently to make our cheerleaders feel more like a family whose members you can rely on,” she added. “We have team building exercises, study days, and many of our returners stay before and after practice to give extra support to our newer members.

“We want them to feel like they can come to us and each other for support.”

Crouch and head coach Jennifer Morrell have built a deep roster for their second year with the program.

The duo work with 20 athletes, including three foreign exchange students and Riley White, who wears the Wolf uniform as the team mascot.

Seniors Lucy Crouch and Karyme Castro are co-captains, while fliers Hayley Fiedler and Pamela Morrell and “our powerhouse base” of Hayley Thomas and Isabella Schooley help lead the squad.

Joining them are a strong group of newcomers, including fliers Ember Light and Miley Gerber, and “crowd rushers” Alysia Burdge, Abbigail Bond, and Makenna Jonker-Chambers.

Rounding out the Wolf roster are Sofia Bharati, Lynn Cosner, Melanie Foley, Gracie McFarlin, and Avery Williams-Buchanan, as well as two students from Spain and one from Italy.

Avery Williams-Buchanan is back and ready to get loud in support of her classmates.

The Wolves will be busy this fall, leading cheers at football games, working with junior cheerleaders, and spreading positive energy near and far.

“Our goal as a team this year is to continue to bring the spirit of cheer back to the Coupeville community,” Tara Crouch said.

“Our cheerleaders have been hard at work volunteering at many community events over the summer and really want to show Coupeville some love.”

The team is focusing on “perfecting our cheers and fine-tuning our stunting,” with an eye on returning to competition cheer.

“We aren’t there yet,” Tara Crouch said. “But we’re confident we have a great team of cheerleaders who will work hard to achieve their goal.”

Wolf coaches Jennifer Morrell (left) and Tara Crouch keep a watchful eye on things.

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Senior setter Maddie Georges is key to keeping the Wolf offense flowing. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They’re Scottie Pippen, but they want to be Michael Jordan.

In the two seasons since Coupeville High School returned to 2B, the Wolf volleyball squad has been flawless in league play, with one caveat.

CHS is 16-0 against every Northwest 2B/1B League rival not named La Conner.

But the Braves, who have won three-straight 2B state titles, and six in the program’s history, are 5-0 against Coupeville in that time frame.

Which just means the chase is on.

“Of course, we will need to practice being prepared for every matchup that we will face this season,” CHS coach Cory Whitmore said.

“We know that La Conner will return a few players from their state championship team this past fall,” he added. “We always expect them to be good, so we will have to work on how to be better.”

Coupeville, which has six consecutive winning seasons with Whitmore at the helm, has plenty of firepower at its disposal.

Those players, a mix of grizzled vets and promising youngsters, is built for success now, and in the future.

“We had a very productive off-season,” Whitmore said. “I’m really looking forward to what we have prepared so far and the puzzle pieces we have in order to figure out our new identity along the way.”

A five-pack of seniors leads the way for the Wolves, with libero Alita Blouin, setter Maddie Georges, and middle blocker Jill Prince each boasting two years of varsity experience.

“They each bring a lot to their positional role,” Whitmore said. “The rest of the team will rely on that experience and look to them for guidance.”

Jill Prince, getting low here, is a force at the net for Coupeville.

Prince led CHS with 93 kills and nine block assists as a junior, while Blouin (207 digs) and Georges (225 assists and 48 service aces) also topped the stat sheet.

Joining the trio at the forefront of the roster are fellow seniors Taygin Jump and Ryanne Knoblich.

Taygin will help bolster the backrow pass and dig game,” Whitmore said.

Ryanne has about reinvented herself now as a six-rotation player – last season she played in a defensive specialist role, but we are so proud of the work she put in this offseason to make herself a terminal attacker on the pin.”

Other Wolves expected to have an impact on the varsity squad include junior Grey Peabody and sophomores Lyla Stuurmans, Madison McMillan, Katie Marti, and Mia Farris.

“I am so proud of the work Grey has put in during the offseason to be ready,” Whitmore said. “She will fill a vacant middle blocker position really well and become a fast attacker.

Lyla really increased her serve receive range and is starting to scratch the surface of her attacking potential.”

Lyla Stuurmans is one of several young Wolves with a bright future.

McMillan and Marti both made their varsity debuts as freshmen, with Marti racking up 86 assists as a fill-in starter for ill or injured teammates.

Farris, riding the momentum of a very-strong freshman season on the softball diamond, “has really come on during the offseason, focusing on detailed technical fixes.

Mia had a great camp,” Whitmore said. “I’m excited to see her continue that momentum in a number of potential roles.”

However the roster breaks down, the Wolves will be focused on two things — emphasizing their attacking efficiency and increasing the amount of block-touches.

“We need to generate points on offense and slow the ball down on defense for our backrow to collect a maximum amount of digs possible,” Whitmore said.

“This particular group is quite receptive to the detailed changes that we need to improve on our goals, and so I’m excited to see how far we can take them.”

Being able to blunt the power offered up by La Conner and other elite teams will be key to Coupeville’s own success.

“We have already started to address that we will have to improve our attacking efficiency if we want to beat the best teams in the league, district and state,” Whitmore said. “It will be a huge area of focus for us moving forward, and with some many factors that contribute to that growth.

“While it is unlikely for us to generate a wild amount of stuff blocks, we have been talking about making sure to get touches on the opponents’ attacks more often to slow down the speed at which their offense comes at us.”

Big kills and dynamic serves are always appreciated, but Whitmore points to his team’s bond as a tight-knit group as being just as important.

“Our team strengths will definitely come from this group’s productive and positive communication,” he said. “It has been a big area of conversation through the offseason, and they have had a taste of just how it can propel us when it is our focus.

“Another strength would be this group’s connectedness.

Similar to communication, I think that fans will be able to see a genuine trust they have for each other and how they have been excited for each other’s successes, thus in turn increasing those team successes.”

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Maddie Georges, a Second-Team All-Conference pick as a sophomore, is back to spark the CHS volleyball offense. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Ryanne Knoblich is part of a pack of very-talented Wolf juniors.

The chase continues.

Battling through the pandemic, the Coupeville High School volleyball squad delivered a very strong effort in a place-out-of-time season which wrapped just a couple of months ago.

Covid bumped what was supposed to be the fall 2020 season out to April and May, 2021, with the Wolves making their return to the Northwest 2B/1B League.

Even with masks and matches often bumped around the schedule at the last second, Coupeville finished 6-3 in the shortened season, placing second among six teams.

All three losses came to two-time defending state champ La Conner, as the Wolves otherwise went undefeated.

Now, with fall sports back in their normal time frame, CHS is set to chase the Braves one more time, while also getting a full schedule including non-conference matchups with rivals like South Whidbey.

Wolf coach Cory Whitmore, carrying a 55-24 record as he heads into season #6 at the helm, has a team which is simultaneously talented and still fairly young.

After losing the four-pack of Kylie Chernikoff, Jaimee Masters, Maddie Vondrak, and Chelsea Prescott to graduation, the program won’t have a senior on the floor this time around.

Abby Mulholland would have been that lone 12th grader, but is injured and will miss the season.

Instead, Coupeville will rely on a very-deep group of juniors headed up by setter Maddie Georges, who was a Second-Team All-Conference pick last season.

“We have a core group of returning players with a season of experience behind them, already doing a great job to lead the team toward our goals,” Whitmore said.

Alita Blouin has really settled in as the libero, taking control in the back row passing and defensive game,” he added. “Jill Prince had a phenomenal offseason, improving her speed and consistency as middle blocker.”

Blouin and Prince have already been noticed by rival coaches, with the duo both earning Honorable Mention when NWL awards were handed out in May.

Whitmore also praised two other stars on the rise.

Lucy Tenore returns with varsity experience as well and is likely to see playing time at the right side attacking and blocking position,” he said.

Ryanne Knoblich also brings varsity experience from last season and had a great offseason,” Whitmore added. “She is a versatile player that can really help where help is needed – front row or back row.”

While the loss of the four seniors — which include First-Team All-Conference players in Chernikoff and Prescott — hurts, there’s a solid youth movement afoot to ease the pain.

Coupeville has eight freshman in the program, with Lyla Stuurmans and Savina Wells already pegged to “likely play a critical role at the varsity level,” while “learning the game at a very accelerated pace.”

“I’m very excited about the advanced skill set and starting place our freshman enter the high school program with,” Whitmore said.

“(Middle School coach) Cris Matochi did a great job in preparing them throughout their modified season last year and together they worked hard to get ready for high school ball.”

Sophomore Olivia Schaffeld is also expected to contribute at the middle blocking role.

One of the top goals for Whitmore and JV coach Ashley Menges will be to “blend our entire two teams as one strong cohesive unit.”

“This group of young women are likely to play with each other for a while yet,” Whitmore said.

“Team bonding and building will be a big focus, as will working to blend our experienced players with our newcomers and move forward to peaking as we enter district play.

“We will need to make our defense disciplined and consistent and push our offensive attack to be terminal.”

The schedule includes 15 matches, and several in-season tournaments, giving the Wolves plenty of time to work on things.

“An early area we will particularly spend time on is improving our passing consistency,” Whitmore said. “From the passing consistency to setting consistency, our attacking efficiency and firepower can pick up in suit.

“We will work on our serving game as well, making sure the quality and location of our serves are tight,” he added.

“I hope to also improve our blocking game this season – it will add a strength to our defense that will take the pressure off the back row as well.”

While the Wolves are relatively young, they are a smart, very-competitive bunch of spikers, something their coach is thrilled to see.

“I believe our team’s strength will include a number of things, starting with their ability to learn and implement new information,” Whitmore said.

“In the short time we have already been a team, we have been able to work on some advanced concepts and skills, and then move forward at an accelerated pace.

“This group also has a competitive streak in them that impressed me. It doesn’t take much to motivate them as soon as it’s turned into a competition and it has already been fun to watch.”

There’s little doubt La Conner is the team to beat, not just in the league, but in all of 2B, and the Braves return four All-Conference players, including MVP Ellie Marble.

But that doesn’t mean Coupeville can coast against other teams.

“We will have to treat each opponent with respect and prepare to play our best every night,” Whitmore said.

“La Conner will undoubtedly put together a strong team and come ready. Orcas Island will return many of their players from last year, as will Darrington,” he added.

“It will be our first time playing Friday Harbor in a while, and so we will need to be ready to adapt to anything.”

As always, the Coupeville volleyball guru preaches focusing internally, and not externally.

“Taking things night-by-night, step-by-step will be a focus of ours as we gain experience through non-league play and come prepared to perform our best each night of league play.”

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Sophomore Nick Guay is a key returning player for the Coupeville High School boys soccer team. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Guay is joined by freshman Cael Wilson, the first Wolf to score in a varsity game as an 8th grader.

Youth rules the day.

As the Coupeville High School boys soccer squad preps for its first full season back in the Northwest 2B/1B League, the Wolves will do so with no seniors on the roster.

Well, unless you count Mexican foreign exchange student Miguel Puentes, who is the great unknown heading into the new campaign.

Other than that, most of the experience on the Wolf roster comes in the form of players like junior Aidan Wilson, who punched in three goals during a pandemic-shortened sophomore season, and current sophomore Nick Guay.

Freshman Cael Wilson, who became the first 8th grader to score in a CHS varsity soccer game, and Guay each tallied a goal apiece last time out, providing the rest of the returning fire power.

Coupeville graduated defenders Sam Wynn and Owen Barenburg, while goal scorers Xavier Murdy (3) and Cole White (1) are currently planning to play tennis this fall.

The Wolves dipped their toes into the NWL, and playing in the fall as opposed to the spring, after moving from 1A to 2B last year.

CHS won its first game out, bouncing Providence Classical Christian, before finishing 1-5.

This time around, the Wolves have a full 16-game schedule, with all contests league affairs.

Boys soccer is a bit of a wild mish-mash in the NWL.

League mates Coupeville, La Conner, Orcas Island, Mount Vernon Christian, and Friday Harbor play, but Concrete and Darrington don’t.

So the five are joined by outsiders PCC, Lopez Island, Cedar Park Christian-Lynnwood, and Grace Academy for just this one sport, making for a solid nine-team royal rumble.

Orcas Island is the reigning champ, and longtime big baddie, while I-5 corridor schools like MVC and PCC have rosters rich in players and coaches from non-school premier programs.

“All our opponents are fantastic programs,” said CHS coach Robert Wood. “And will be a challenge for us due to youth and inexperience.”

Along with Guay, the Wilson brothers, and the tantalizing promise of a foreign exchange student arriving from a soccer-mad country, the Wolves will rely on players such as Preston Epp and Grant Steller.

Epp is a freshman, who, like Cael Wilson, is heading into his second year as a varsity player.

While Steller is making his CHS debut, he has prior experience playing for Deception FC and has been named with Aidan Wilson as a team captain.

Wood plans to work extensively on building his young players confidence and fitness, with an emphasis on “teamwork and off-ball movement.”

“We have a very young team, so success is not going to be measured in win/loss record against the I-5 corridor of year-round competitive players,” he said.

“We want to build our soccer IQ and team skills, for the long-term development of the CHS soccer program.”

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