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8th grader Haylee Armstrong received two awards at Thursday’s season-ending CMS volleyball awards shindig. (Michelle Armstrong photo)

The volleyballs have been put away, the jerseys returned, and the awards handed out.

The Coupeville Middle School spikers officially wrapped a successful season Thursday, with coaches Cris Matochi and Raven Vick honoring their players.

 

MVP:

Haylee Armstrong (Varsity)
KeeArya Brown (JV)
Willow Leedy-Bonifas (JV)
Tenley Stuurmans (Varsity)

 

Most Improved:

Lexis Drake (Varsity)
Olivia Martin (JV)

 

Wolf Spirit Award:

Capri Anter (Varsity)
Isabella Bowder (JV)
Adeline Maynes (Varsity)

 

Most Inspirational Leader:

Haylee Armstrong

 

Participation Certificates:

Capri Anter
Haylee Armstrong
Cheyanne Atteberry
Isabella Bowder
KeeArya Brown
Isabella de Souza
Lexis Drake
Alexis Hewitt
Emma Leavitt
Willow Leedy-Bonifas
Olivia Martin
Adeline Maynes
Myra McDonald
Alyssa McGee
Rhylin Price
Tenley Stuurmans

Emma Leavitt, already a top server as a mere 6th grader, will be back. (Leann Leavitt photo)

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Capri Anter, seen last season, is off to play high school volleyball next year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They played their strongest in the finale.

Toss away the scores, and the Coupeville Middle School spikers peaked perfectly Wednesday in Langley, just the way coaches Cris Matochi and Raven Vick hoped.

“I believe this is by far the best volleyball, but the scores didn’t reflect that today,” Matochi said. “I was pleased that we played good volleyball, not desperate volleyball.”

How the day unfolded:

 

Varsity:

The second clash between next-door neighbors in three days went to the host team, with the Cougars nipping Coupeville 25-23, 26-24, 15-11 in a reversal of Monday’s Wolf win.

The loss drops CMS to 4-4 heading into the awards banquet.

Win or lose, Matochi liked what he saw from the girls on the floor.

“We read the balls, not reacted to the balls, which was great,” he said. “I was excited that the girls who came in, did their roles and played their best.

“This was the first time we ran a full new rotation, learning defense and hitting systems that were not executed before,” Matochi added.

“I think that the biggest opponent that we had today was our own minds, but I’m excited to see how today’s matches will elevate the girls game next year.”

Using a mix of full-time varsity spikers and swing players who got their first taste of the high life in the final week, the Wolves jelled and flourished.

“It was great to see how Willow (Leedy-Bonifas) reset from the JV to play on varsity,” Matochi said.

Haylee (Armstrong’s) serves changed the game. She just chipped and chipped away,” he added. “Rhylin (Price) took a bigger role with serve receive and was a main player in our lineup.

Capri (Anter) being consistent tonight was such a plus. As well as Lexis (Drake) was able to recover quickly and finish on a good note, which is something we love to see.”

Both matches against their archrivals were tense, hard-fought affairs, giving the Wolves a taste of battles to come.

“We walked in the gym knowing it would be a tough match and the girls ended up letting the pressure overcome their skills,” Matochi said. “Though we are both confident that this will make them better next year.

“The coaches would like to thank the players who are moving on to high school next year and we want to celebrate their accomplishments,” he added.

“They built up our team and were a great asset and we are excited to see where they go next year.”

 

JV:

Coupeville’s second squad battled to the end in a 25-23, 25-18, 15-8 loss, leaving its final record at 1-7.

“I’m incredibly impressed with how well we played and had good energy for the most part throughout the whole game,” Raven Vick said.

The former Wolf praised the players who grew as the season progressed.

Olivia (Martin) did well with holding her platform and she was highly successful with that,” Vick said. “This was the best Alyssa (McGee) played this season and she got a few playable balls up.

Izzy (Bowder) worked really hard on passing today, too. Everyone chipped in with serving, but we lacked consistency.”

CMS 6th grader Emma Leavitt opened the match with a six-point run at the service stripe, with her reign of terror only ending when the ref belatedly remembered the five-serve limit in middle school volleyball.

“Tonight, Emma did well with serving and consistently put a run in at the line,” Vick said. “KeeAyra (Brown) did well with passing and had one incredible save where she got it back over the net when no one else thought it was going to happen.

Cheyanne (Atteberry) had a couple of good passes, which helped out the team.”

The serene nature and competitive fire of one Wolf player made a particular impression as the season wrapped.

Willow (Leedy-Bonifas) was a calm fire on the court,” Vick said. “Always encouraging her team while staying her fairly quiet self.

“She has a way of keeping the court humming along without most people in the stands noticing,” she¬†added.

Willow is a quiet leader, and we as coaches are so excited to see how much she stepped up this season.”

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Willow Leedy-Bonifas, seen here last season, played strongly Thursday. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It was a memorable trip.

Thursday’s trek to the wilds of Sultan was about more than just volleyball for the Coupeville Middle School spikers.

Wolf coach Cris Matochi had to push through a back injury to make an appearance, while the poor air quality — 295 on the index — left the outside of the gym looking like snow was falling.

Once inside the enclosure, CMS faced off with a tough Turks program in a rematch of an earlier-season rumble, with the host teams getting a bit of revenge.

How the day played out:

 

Varsity:

Coupeville pulled out a three-set win on Whidbey Island back in early October, but this time around Sultan came out ahead 25-20, 25-21, 15-10.

Sapped by the long trip and the stagnant, smoke-filled surroundings, the Wolves hit the floor missing a bit of their mojo.

“We started with lower energy and had to dig ourselves out of a hole,” said Wolf coach Raven Vick.

“By the end they played really well, but it was just too late in the game.”

Coupeville, normally a strong-serving team, struggled a bit at the line, and that hurt, though the Wolves did “execute the game plan well and had nice ball handling from everyone.”

Vick and Matochi praised the play of Adeline Maynes, who was on fire as a setter, and Haylee Armstong, who sprayed winners all day.

Haylee was a standout, getting multiple attacks and had one kill that left us coaches speechless,” Vick said.

“She had amazing form and crushed the ball to the floor.”

 

JV:

The Wolves “played well and worked hard to get a consistent three touches but struggled with keeping the ball in” during a 25-12, 25-14, 15-8 loss.

“The times we did get all three touches, we would get the point,” Vick said.

Willow Leedy-Bonifas and Emma Leavitt were on point with their serves, setting up positive Wolf rallies.

“Everyone chipped in and did well,” Vick said. “We saw more people who have struggled with serves get at least one serve in, which was great.

“They had some positive energy which was great to see as they really wanted to play well.

“They hustled to every ball and gave so much effort. It was exciting to see.”

 

Coupeville closes its eight-match season with back-to-back rumbles against Island rival Langley next week.

The Wolves host the Cougars Monday, Oct. 24, then head south two days later.

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Haylee Armstrong is just here to deliver spikes and take names. (Michelle Armstrong photo)

First, a word about Olivia Martin and Isabella Bowder.

The current crop of Coupeville Middle School volleyball players, all 15 or so, approach the sport with a mixture of talent and hustle.

Wolf coaches Raven Vick and Cris Matochi have taught them well, and the confidence level grows with each match.

But, as I said, first a word about Martin and Bowder, who are in the sixth and eighth grade, respectively.

The duo may not be giants, but they have hearts which would indicate otherwise.

Watching Martin and Bowder over the course of Coupeville’s first three matches — including Monday’s tilt with visiting King’s — you can’t help but be impressed with how they approach every bit of time they get on the hardwood.

With no disrespect meant to the other Wolves, who are a scrappy, joyous pack, this duo is a titanic tandem.

Martin and Bowder sprint after every last incoming ball — even the ones destined to land far away — fling themselves across the floor, loudly cheer for their teammates, and get well-deserved vocal support back.

Monday, Martin, swinging from the bottom of her shoes to the top of her head, launched her first successful serves against a rival team, the ball zinging across the net and earning points for the Wolves.

Then she did the dance of her people, her face a portrait of pure joy.

It was the same with Bowder, springing across the floor in big bounds, fists pumping after each play.

Izzy and Olivia are such great energy givers,” Vick said, a comment seconded by Matochi.

CMS may have other players who are further along in their volleyball development, but Martin and Bowder are the heart and soul of the program.

It’s players like them — young women who approach every match, every practice, every new skill, with gritty determination and unbounded joy — who make a program a true success.

So they, and their teammates deserve a shout-out from fans, and a “well-done” from their coaches, while knowing their parents go to bed proud of them each night.

With that said, on to Monday’s matches.

Willow Leedy-Bonifas (11) and Olivia Martin (4) await the serve. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

 

Varsity:

The mystique has cracked.

King’s still has the private school powerhouse brand-name on the jersey, but the Wolves never showed a single flicker of concern as they went toe-to-toe and shot-for-shot with the Knights.

Rallying time and again, CMS almost pulled off the upset before falling 25-23, 20-25, 15-11.

How close was it? In terms of total points, King’s edged the Wolves 60-59.

It’s the kind of thing which makes a coach want a rematch.

“We were never intimidated,” Matochi said. “Ooh, I would love to play them again.”

“We would give them a run!” Vick said, but a check of the schedule reveals just one rumble with King’s on this year’s eight-match schedule.

But, whether it’s next season on the CMS floor, or in high school, the two schools will meet again at some point, and these Wolves know they have nothing to fear.

Coupeville did start off surprisingly slow, falling behind 8-0 in the opening set without King’s doing anything all that special.

It just seemed like the Wolf varsity, now at seven players with the season debut of Myra McDonald, needed a moment or two to find its groove.

Then the spikes started landing, the serves started zipping, and things got much more interesting.

Tenley Stuurmans fired off three straight points on her serve to get CMS on the board, before Capri Anter came around to launch seven winners of her own from the stripe.

Anter’s run was aided by Haylee Armstrong slicing off kneecaps at the net, and Adeline Maynes flicking artfully placed tip winners which fell between Knight players.

Maynes went on her own torrid run at the service line, as CMS, all the way back from its early deficit, claimed its biggest lead at 21-19.

It wasn’t to be, however, as King’s scored the final three points of the set, turning a 23-22 deficit into a 25-23 win.

Coupeville had to fight from behind in the second set as well, though the biggest margin was five points, at 8-3.

Maynes was again on point with her serves, while Armstrong, smacking balls while airborne, pushed the Wolves back out in front.

From there Lexis Drake and Rhylin Price flashed their own brilliance at the stripe, with Drake whaling away on a set-busting five-point run on serve.

With Coupeville playing a third and deciding set for the third time in as many matches this season, the finale was set up to be a barnburner.

And it largely delivered, as Stuurmans lifted the Wolves to a 3-0 lead, before King’s flipped the script and grabbed control.

The final tie came at 7-7, thanks to Anter whacking a service ace off of a Knight player’s shoulder, followed by Armstrong launching a spike which landed in the final millimeter of space in the far right corner of the court.

Coupeville’s final highlight reel play pulled the Wolves back within 13-11.

Drake¬†unleashed a booming serve, the two teams rallied, then Stuurmans, sneaking into position along the sideline, bounded into the air and redirected a tip into no-man’s land.

It wasn’t the last point of the match, maybe, but it was a perfect punctuation mark.

Alyssa McGee, seen here with bis sis Trinity, plays with great joy. (Angie McGee photo)

 

JV:

King’s showed up with both a second and third squad, so Martin, Bowder, and Co. played two matches in one day.

While the Wolves lost both bouts to the Knights, the extra floor time should pay dividends as the season progresses.

Willow Leedy-Bonifas was a rock for CMS, scoring multiple winners on well-placed shots, including one she flipped over her shoulder while her back was to the net.

Also coming up big were Emma Leavitt and Cheyanne Atteberry, who each rifled a nasty serve or two to keep the Knights leaning backwards.

Alexis Hewitt went to her knees to dig a ball off the floor, her return shot catching the net and flopping over for a Wolf point, while KeeArya Brown and Alyssa McGee chipped in with hustle and strong team spirit.

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Tenley Stuurmans and her CMS volleyball teammates are here to rule the gym. (Scott Stuurmans photo)

She’s a terror.

Playing her best at crunch time Wednesday, Coupeville Middle School 7th grader Tenley Stuurmans penned another triumphant chapter in her family’s long, successful sports history.

Sparked by their wild child in the #1 jersey, the Wolf varsity volleyball spikers roared from behind to gut a Sultan squad that thought it was cruising to victory.

Spoiler alert: Coupeville’s first-string, all six players, is better than the 17 Turks piled up on the opposite bench.

The Wolves, especially on this day, were feistier, grittier, and far more cold-blooded when it came time to chop off heads (metaphorically…) and let their opponents bleed out on the hardwood.

Which is why Stuurmans, Lexis Drake, Capri Anter, Rhylin Price, Adeline Maynes, and the queen of the knee-buckling slicers, one Haylee Armstrong, won 14-25, 25-18, 15-10.

Now a pristine 2-0 on the season, with back-to-back three-set thrillers in the win column, the Wolves are on the prowl and ready to square off with King’s next Monday, Oct. 10.

It’ll be the team’s third-straight home match, then CMS hits the open road for treks to Granite Falls, Northshore Christian Academy, and a rematch with Sultan.

That should be a brawl, but one the Wolves are prepared for, knowing they have the ability to yank a win out of the jaws of defeat.

Wednesday’s tilt started as a back-and-forth affair in the first set, before Sultan used a stellar run at the service stripe to stretch a 9-7 lead out to 16-7.

Coupeville fought back, with Armstrong popping off a couple service winners before sliding face-first across the floor to save the ball on a defensive stand.

But it wasn’t quite enough, and the Turks had some strut in their step as the teams went to the bench between sets.

That soon evaporated, however, as CMS fought back, and fought back hard.

Maynes impressed her large fan base with an explosive ace, which dropped suddenly, bit a chunk out of the floor, then skidded away as two Turks swung and missed.

Add in a play where Stuurmans made a sensational save, pulling the ball out of the net with her back to the other team, followed by Price elevating for the put away, and the momentum had shifted.

Drake mashed a pair of winners on her serve, before Stuurmans went on an extended tour of duty at the same stripe, rifling seven straight points to push CMS ahead 18-7.

Coupeville’s biggest lead in the middle set came at 21-9, as a Sultan player slipped just as she went to return a shot.

Her leg went one way, her shoe departed her body and went the other way, screaming “Freedom!”, and the ball ended up somewhere in the rafters.

The play actually seemed to inspire Sultan however, with the Turks going on an 8-1 run after the wayward shoe was retrieved and firmly tied back into place.

The Wolves weren’t having it, though, and the splendid six bore back down, knotting things at a set apiece after Stuurmans froze the entire gym in place on set point, angling a tip one way while all the Turks went in the other direction.

With the match on the line, and Sultan’s fans having gone dead quiet, the ref pulled veteran linesmen Katie Kiel and Nathaniel Leavitt out of the stands for quality control.

Most of their job? Signaling the ball was in, as the Wolf servers dominated in the home stretch.

Stuurmans, twirling the ball and arching an eyebrow ever so slightly, went ballistic at the stripe, racking up seven of her team’s final 15 points on her serve.

An ace down the middle of the court.

A wicked ace which slashed over the net and dove like a submarine fleeing WW2 bombers.

And just for the thrill of it, an ace off the face is the gift which stings all night long.

Maynes and Drake hit winners on their serve, as well, with Maynes also offering up a gorgeous slice return which spun away from Sultan’s defenders and staked Coupeville to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The victory, and the way it was achieved, left CMS coaches Cris Matochi and Raven Vick with satisfied smiles on their faces.

“We worked a lot in practice on moving to the ball, and doing so with commitment,” Matochi said. “Do everything with a purpose and play big girl volleyball.

“I was very pleased with how we’ve improved already in this time.”

That’s something Vick agrees with.

“We’re seeing them apply the technical skills we’ve taught them,” she said. “That is very encouraging.”

 

JV stands tall:

Coupeville’s second unit got progressively stronger as the match went on, fighting for every point in a 25-16, 25-21 loss.

Now 1-1 on the season, the JV unit was as close as 14-13 in the opening set, before Sultan pulled away thanks to some underhanded, lob-heavy precision serving.

Cheyanne Atteberry paced the Wolves in the early going, netting two winners off of well-placed return shots, while Emma Leavitt, Willow Leedy-Bonifas, and KeeArya Brown all came up with big-time plays.

The second set was much like the first, though closer.

Coupeville played from behind most of the time, but never allowed Sultan to dominate, and eventually got within 21-20 late.

Leedy-Bonifas had the hot hand at the stripe this time around, picking up three points on her serve, while Isabella Bowder, Brown, and Leavitt also notched winners.

Alexis Hewitt and Olivia Martin rounded out the active roster, both seeing floor time and injecting an air of electricity with their hustle.

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