Posts Tagged ‘Fall Sports Preview’

Sam Wynn is the top returning male runner for Coupeville High School cross country. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Alana Mihill (center) and Catherine Lhamon are back to pace an expanding girls team.

Step by step, the program is coming back.

Coupeville High School jumped back into cross country last season, after a two-decade absence, and found some immediate success.

Now, with a new coach on hand, the Wolves want to keep building numbers, while preparing their harriers to run far into the postseason.

Luke Samford, who spent the previous seven years coaching cross country and track at the college level, replaces Natasha Bamberger, who stepped down to focus on her real-world job.

The new Wolf head man immediately jumped into things, and has a good mix of returning runners and newcomers.

Juniors Sam Wynn and Catherine Lhamon and sophomore Alana Mihill top the letter winners, while three freshmen have already made their presence felt.

“Right now, on the men’s side, Mitchell Hall has been looking really good at the first few practices,” Samford said. “It is evident he put in some miles over the summer, and it shows.

“On the women’s side, our two freshmen girls, Claire (Mayne) and Helen (Strelow), have both been finding their strengths!,” he added. “I’m really pleased with their attitudes and work ethic. They are going to be good running partners for the future, too.”

The biggest challenge for the Wolves will be to grow, both as individual runners and as a unit.

“We are a young team!,” Samford said. “There’s not a lot of racing experience in the upperclassmen either, since the program is so new.”

Putting in the miles should pay off down the road, however.

“Cross country is a sport where the big competitions happen in October and November, but the season is won during July and August!,” Samford said. “It takes time to get ready for high-level racing.

“I think we missed some miles over the summer, but our raw talent, work ethic, and systematic approach to training will shore up these weakness,” he added. “What we need most, is to put our noses to the grindstone, and get the work done.

“Focusing on having consistent days of quality training turn into weeks, into months, and into seasons, is the key to success in this sport.”

With Coupeville also restarting its cross country program at the middle school level in 2018, one of the key building blocks was set in place.

Runners shaped by CMS coach Elizabeth Bitting are already making the jump up to high school, while the next waves will be where the real pay-offs happen.

“On the boys and girls sides we have a lot of freshman with a tremendous amount of potential,” Samford said. “Our returners also had a year of great coaching last year, so they know what it’s going to take to get to the next competitive level.

“Our middle school program is AWESOME and will be a great source of getting talented athletes in Coupeville into the sport.”

While numbers are up for both girls and boys, the girls are still a hair away from having a full roster.

Mihill and Lhamon ran last year, and the addition of Strelow and Mayne bumps the girls team to four harriers, but they need a fifth runner to be a full-scoring team in competition.

“We need a few more girls to join us!!!!!,” Samford pleaded. “To any parents, grandparents, or to the kids themselves — cross country is a sport about camaraderie, inclusion, and self-improvement.

“Yes, it’s difficult. It’s worth it, though!”

Coupeville, which has seven regular-season meets on the books, kicks off its season Sept. 12 at Granite Falls.

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After a ton of off-season work, Drake Borden returns to anchor the Coupeville High School boys tennis squad at #1 singles. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Zach Ginnings is part of a solid core of returning Wolf players.

He’s never been in this position before.

Longtime Coupeville High School boys tennis guru Ken Stange has built a successful program, one which has boasted deep rosters and plenty of success.

But this season he’s facing the prospect of trying to achieve the latter without having the former.

Eight days out from their first match, the Wolves have just seven players.

While they’re all returnees, that’s not even enough netters to fill a full varsity lineup.

Coupeville needs eight men, with their league matches consisting of two singles players and three doubles teams.

With school starting Tuesday, there’s hope of at least one freshman showing up, and Stange and Co. continue to chase down every lead which might lead to a CHS boy with a pulse.

But, even if they get any late-comers, the Wolves will have to forfeit a match in each of their hard-court rumbles until the newbie(s) get 10 practices under their belt.

While he doesn’t have much depth, Stange does have a solid core of players, led by Drake Borden, who inherits the #1 singles slot from the graduated Jakobi Baumann.

“Our strength is having seven returning players with experience,” Stange¬†said. “Another strength is Drake, who played all off-season and is primed for a solid season.”

Backing Borden are Mason Grove, James Wood, Zach Ginnings, Andrew Aparicio, Thane Peterson, and Koby Schreiber.

Of the returning players, two – Borden and Ginnings – played in the postseason last year.

Regardless of how many players he ends up with, Stange enters the season with the same mind-set he’s employed for the past decade-and-a-half.

“I expect us to compete hard and win some more individual matches,” he said. “I hope our team is able to win a few, too.”

While all of Coupeville’s other sports teams compete in the North Sound Conference, tennis joins up with South Whidbey to take on the private school powerhouses who camp out in the ultra-exclusive Emerald City League.

It’s a conference led by perennial state title contenders University Prep and Seattle Academy, and no match is an easy match.

But the Wolves made a nice statement for public schools everywhere last year, finishing in the top half of the eight teams in the ECL.

It might not have a deep roster in year two, but Coupeville has no intention of backing down quietly.

“We finished fourth in the league last year,” Stange said. “Finishing that well again would mean we had a strong season.”

Coupeville opens Sept. 11 at home against South Whidbey.

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Genna Wright enters her junior season on the soccer pitch tied for #3 all-time among Coupeville girls goal scorers. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Mallory Kortuem (right) is part of a rock-solid group of seniors intent on leading the Wolves back to the playoffs.

They would love to still be playing in November.

A rough late-season loss on the turf at Sultan last year denied the Coupeville High School girls soccer squad a trip to the playoffs, snapping a four-year run of postseason activity for the Wolf booters.

But now, as it heads into year two in the North Sound Conference, Coupeville wants to get back to playing extra games.

The regular season is set to end Oct. 23, but the Wolves are aiming to stay in uniform after that.

“My goal is to form a well-organized, disciplined, exciting-to-watch squad,” said CHS coach Kyle Nelson. “And, with anyone who watches us play this year seeing improvement through the course of the season.

“I would like to finish with a berth to the postseason,” he added. “So, the season will be a success if we make postseason play.”

King’s, which went 18-3 and fell in the quarterfinals of the state tourney a season ago, is the overwhelming league favorite.

“Always an excellent team,” Nelson said.

After that, it should be a brawl, with South Whidbey, Cedar Park Christian, Granite Falls, Sultan, and Coupeville vying for the other four postseason berths.

While the Wolves lost several key players to graduation, including four-year star Lindsey Roberts, the roster is still jam-packed with quality players.

Leading the way is junior forward Genna Wright, who has tallied 17 goals through her first two seasons on the CHS pitch.

That puts her in a tie with Roberts for #3 all-time among Wolf girls, chasing Mia Littlejohn (35) and Kalia Littlejohn (33) on the career scoring list.

Wright’s support crew includes four seniors who have combined to pepper the back of the net for a combined 17 goals during their prep days.

Midfielder Avalon Renninger leads that group, with six career goals, while midfielder Mallory Kortuem (4), defender Tia Wurzrainer (4) and forward Anna Dion (3) have also shown a nice touch around the net.

There’s plenty of other battle-hardened players on the roster, with senior defender Natalie Hollrigel, junior goaltender Mollie Bailey, sophomore defender Mary Milnes, and sophomore midfielder Audrianna Shaw primed for big seasons.

“We are returning quite a few starting varsity players in most positions on the field,” Nelson said. “We are also lucky enough to be bringing in a few experienced players to fill in some of our holes.

“We will be looking to incorporate some new players who look to be important to our team,” he added. “But it can take a while for both the defense and the new players to fully integrate.”

Sophomores Eryn Wood (defender) and Sophia Martin (midfielder/forward) are also expected to contribute, while freshmen Carolyn Lhamon (midfielder) and Nezi Keiper (defender) were both standout youth league players.

Coupeville kicks off its season this week, with a four-team jamboree Thursday in Oak Harbor (5 PM), followed by a home non-conference clash Saturday with Meridian (1 PM).

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Hannah Davidson (11) and Maya Toomey-Stout are part of a dynamic group of seniors who will lead CHS volleyball this season. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Emma Mathusek is another key returning player for a strong Wolf squad.

Let’s keep the good times rolling.

That’s the goal for the high-powered Coupeville High School volleyball squad as it heads into year four under the guidance of coach Cory Whitmore.

The Wolf spikers are on a streak of three-straight seasons of 11 wins or more, with a trip to state in the middle of that run.

Since Whitmore entered the gym to take the reigns, Coupeville has amassed a 35-16 mark, with back-to-back titles in the Olympic League followed by a second-place showing last season in the new North Sound Conference.

Now, as the Wolves get ready to make another run at King’s, South Whidbey and Co., they will have to do so without two key players.

Emma Smith, a First-Team All-Conference pick last season, and steady team leader Ashley Menges are no more, having swapped out spikes and sets for the lives of college freshmen.

“As a team, we have talked openly about what it’s going to take in order to make up for the loss of Ashley and Emma, and they’re excited for the challenge,” Whitmore said.

Ashley and Emma leave such an impact on the program that we’ll need a collection of players – returning and new to varsity playing time – to step up in a variety of ways.”

While the loss of the duo stings, the Wolf bench is crammed with talented, battle-hardened players.

“We are very excited to return a large core number of our players from last year’s strong season,” Whitmore said.

Leading the way are Maya Toomey-Stout (First Team) and Scout Smith (Second Team), who both earned All-Conference honors as juniors.

“They have continued to improve their game this off-season,” Whitmore said. “They will attract attention as primary setter (Scout) and as an effective outside hitter (Maya).

Hannah Davidson (middle blocker), Emma Mathusek (libero), and Chelsea Prescott (outside hitter) all contributed considerable playing time during the past season and continue to grow in their strength and confidence.”

Prescott, a junior who has played at the varsity level for most of her prep career, is the lone non-senior in that core group.

While the first five are pretty much set, the battle to fill out the roster will be an intense one.

“We’re really excited about the players that will fight to fill the vacant roles on the varsity squad,” Whitmore said. “Many players — upper and underclassmen alike — had a great off-season.

“They worked really hard to not only set themselves up for a great chance to fill empty positions and roles, but also to keep and raise the standard and lofty goals we have for the season.”

While this year’s squad should be a largely senior-dominated one, Whitmore and assistant coach Chris Smith won’t be left with a completely bare cupboard. The future is here, and it’s already ready to contribute.

“As a coaching staff, we have been very impressed with this incoming freshman class,” Whitmore said. “Not just here as practices have started, but early on in the summer.

“It has been our highest-attending group of freshman to summer functions (practices, camps, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, etc.) and this dedication and hard work early on will pay off.”

As always, the Wolves are aiming high, with plans to fight for the league title and earn a return to the state tourney.

Defending league champ King’s, which claimed 3rd place at state last year, is the mountain in their way, but the North Sound Conference offers no easy matches.

“The both exciting and frustrating thing about this particular league is we will have to bring our best effort night-in and night-out,” Whitmore said. “We will have to respect every team in order to finish in the top tier, and, having had some success last season, teams will be wary of what we can do as well.”

Breaking down the opponents, he notes King’s is “always strong and will return key players from their very successful team” while Cedar Park Christian “returns many of their players that we battled with in numerous five-set matches last year.”

“South Whidbey always reloads and is well-prepared,” Whitmore added. “Sultan and Granite Falls put together scrappy teams that don’t seem to go away.

“We can’t look past anyone, but we also talk about how we will focus primarily on our side of the net, and that right there is a strong foundation to build upon toward our goals.”

One of those primary targets is to play progressively stronger as a team as the season unfolds.

“It is always our goal to be playing our best, most cohesive volleyball, peaking at the end of the season and this goal is very much on our mind, even as we’ve just started practices,” Whitmore said.

Another area Coupeville will stress is attacking efficiency, controlling how points are scored and pushing the action hard at any opponent, regardless of record.

“We will need to focus on our ability to put the ball away,” Whitmore said. “While every opponent will have to earn their points against our aggressive defense, we will have to generate our own high-powered offense to respond.

“Again, we openly discuss our lack of height and just see this as another challenge that will take hard work and creativity to overcome,” he added.

“We will need to be efficient passing the ball in order to allow Scout to set a consistent attack coming from various places along the net. We talk about how this is built up over time and will take patience and a group effort in order to achieve.”

While the Wolves don’t have a ton of tree toppers patrolling the net, they have smart, tough, springy players who have been playing with each other over the course of multiple seasons in multiple sports.

“One of our strengths that we will rely upon this season will be our ability to rely on productive communication,” Whitmore said. “This group has a strong rapport with each other through years of familiarity, as well as experience playing with each other on various competitive sports teams.

“This experience and ability to communicate will be essential as we push toward our goals and need to make in-match adjustments against tough opponents,” he added.

Of Coupeville’s core five players, four have been to state in more than one sport, with Smith, Prescott, and Mathusek playing key roles for a Wolf softball squad which had a strong run in Richland last spring.

In addition to pegging spikes at the big dance during her sophomore volleyball campaign, Toomey-Stout has competed at the state track and field meet three years running.

That kind of experience should hopefully pay off big time when the Wolves find themselves in tense, back-and-forth brawls on the court this season.

“We will also fall back on a strong level of experience,” Whitmore said. “This group has had to compete with each other in trying situations and, like with communication, the experience will allow us to settle in during high-pressure moments.

“These competitive characteristics, matched with a strong serve, tenacious defense and a high volleyball-IQ, should allow us to be competitive no matter the team across the net.”

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Scott Hilborn is one of 11 freshmen on a 24-man CHS football roster. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Seniors Dawson Houston (with ball) and Gavin Straub have grown into leaders for the Wolves.

It’s a year of transition.

The Coupeville High School football team faces several obstacles now, which could pay off big-time down the road.

Or, at least that’s the hope.

The Wolves, coming off a 3-6 record, play an independent schedule this fall, and will do so with a roster where freshmen account for 11 of 24 players.

As the CHS gridiron squad rebuilds under second-year coach Marcus Carr, school officials decided to pull the football program from the 1A North Sound Conference this year.

With Coupeville expected to drop down to 2B in the next classification counts, that gives the Wolves a chance to avoid powerhouses like King’s and Cedar Park Christian, while facing teams they better match up with.

The September schedule pits CHS against the same four teams it opened against last year — Port Townsend, Vashon Island, Friday Harbor, and La Conner.

The Wolves opened 2018 with a strong 3-1 showing against that lineup, then tailed off once conference play began.

This time around, Coupeville is also matched up against Kittitas, Northwest Christian (which is new to football), Anacortes (which killed its varsity program due to a lack of older players), and Interlake.

The lone North Sound Conference foe the Wolves retain is next-door neighbor South Whidbey, which keeps the annual clash for The Bucket alive.

Opting for an independent schedule was a path Coupeville’s arch-rivals took two years ago, and the Wolves are hoping for similar success.

Playing a mix of 2B and Canadian schools, South Whidbey surged to a 7-2 record in 2017, filled out its roster considerably, then claimed a playoff spot last season in the debut year for the North Sound Conference.

For Coupeville to make the playoffs as an independent team it has to go undefeated — something last accomplished by the Wolves in 1990.

But while making the postseason this fall is a long shot, the chance to grow the Wolf roster and build confidence among young players is huge.

“We want to improve our win/loss record,” Carr said. “We have 11 freshmen, so getting them game experience and confidence (is the goal).

“We also want to see better execution on the offensive side of the ball.”

The Wolves are transitioning to a spread offense, which means “timing between the QB’s and receivers is very important.”

Dawson Houston returns for his second season as Coupeville’s starting quarterback, and his primary targets will be fellow seniors Sean Toomey-Stout and Gavin Knoblich.

Toomey-Stout, listed as a wide receiver after playing running back previously, was a First-Team All-Conference player as a junior on offense, defense, and special teams.

One of the stars of a viral video in which a wayward deer became his lead blocker as he returned a punt for a touchdown, “The Torpedo” remains one of the most-explosive players to ever pull on a CHS uniform.

Knoblich, who gives Houston a tall target with sure hands, was a Second-Team All-Conference pick at tight end during his junior campaign.

Senior running back Andrew Martin, fond of bustin’ heads as he rumbles for yardage, and senior linebacker Gavin Straub, who had a strong performance at spring camp, are among other key players.

Also back in action are senior Gavin St Onge, junior Ben Smith, and sophomores Isaiah Bittner, Gabe Shaw, and Brian Casey.

Junior Dakota Eck, who played for Coupeville through middle school, returned to town last spring, and rejoins the Wolves.

New to the CHS gridiron program are senior Austin Galletta, sophomore Cole Hutchinson, and, in somewhat of a huge, yet very positive, surprise, the largest freshman class in recent memory.

Coupeville’s middle school football program shut down mid-way through last season, due to a lack of healthy players.

Now it’s been disbanded for good, and replaced with a boys soccer team which will make its debut this fall.

But, thanks to a combination of middle school players who hung on through the tough times, and others who are new to the school or football program, Coupeville is flooded with 9th graders.

And it’s a group which will likely get a lot of playing time right away.

Skills players Scott Hilborn (RB, S) and Daylon Houston (CB, WR, K), as well as lineman Josh Upchurch, Kai Wong, and Kynel Hart are already making names for themselves, while their fellow frosh are all looking to make a big splash of their own.

Dominic Coffman,Timothy Ursu, Joven Light, Kevin Partida, Nick Armstrong, and Cameron Epp round out the current roster.

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