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“Who’s the best softball team in the North Sound Conference?”

“We are!!” (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

We’re #1.

Most likely.

Capping a wild regular season, the Coupeville High School softball team thrashed host South Whidbey 18-5 Tuesday, giving them a three-game season sweep of their Island rivals.

With the victory, the Wolves clinch at least a share of the North Sound Conference title, and put themselves in position to be the league’s #1 seed to districts.

The Wolves, who have won eight of their last 10 games, finish 9-3 in league play, and are 12-7 overall heading into the postseason, which starts May 16.

Coupeville won’t know for sure until Thursday if they are the #1 or #2 seed to districts.

That day Granite Falls (8-3, 11-7) travels to Sultan (1-10, 1-13) and Cedar Park Christian (8-3, 13-4) hosts South Whidbey (2-9, 5-12).

Here are the possible outcomes, with Coupeville earning the #1 playoff seed in three of four scenarios:

**Granite and CPC lose = Coupeville is undisputed league champs.

**Granite wins, CPC loses = Coupeville finishes in a tie with Granite.

Tigers get #1 seed based on tiebreaker, thanks to beating Wolves in two of three games.

**Granite loses, CPC wins = Coupeville finishes in a tie with CPC.

Wolves get #1 seed, since they took two of three against Eagles.

**Granite and CPC win = it’s a three-way tie for the title.

Head-to-head tiebreakers don’t work here, as each team won two of three against one foe, while losing two of three against the other opponent.

In this scenario, the most likely of the four, the seeding decision comes down to a blind draw done before the season by league AD’s.

And this is where it gets golden for Coupeville, since Willie Smith beat the odds and pulled the best number, which would make CHS the #1 seed.

However it breaks down Thursday, the Wolves are headed to the playoffs with a full head of steam.

Tuesday, CHS came out locked and loaded offensively and defensively, racking up 13 hits while also pulling off a season-best three double plays in the field.

The game started with one kind of splat — Wolf lead-off hitter Scout Smith being drilled with a wayward pitch — and ended with another, as Coupeville blew up the scoreboard for eight runs in the final inning.

Before the sting of being bonked had time to ease, Smith was on the move around the base-paths.

The Wolf junior scooted to second in a hurry when South Whidbey bobbled an Emma Mathusek grounder, before shooting home on an RBI single smacked sharply to left by Chelsea Prescott.

An out later, it was time for Mollie Bailey to remind folks that while her family has been anchored on the Coupeville prairie for decades, she’s more than willing to tear it up all over the Island.

Turning viciously on the ball, she paddled the offering back up the middle, skipping it between defenders and sending Mathusek and Prescott scrambling for home.

With Smith tossing BB’s from the pitcher’s circle, Coupeville carried the 3-0 lead into the top of the third, then tacked on a few more runs.

The first run came around thanks to an absolute laser off of the bat of Wolf catcher Sarah Wright, who smoked a double to deep left.

The next score might have been even better, because it came after South Whidbey intentionally walked the scariest batter they’ve known this season.

Wolf first-baseman Veronica Crownover smashed fences-clearing home runs in both the previous games this season between the Island rivals, and the Falcons were feeling a bit gun-shy in their third tango.

Twice Tuesday they waved her to first base on intentional passes, then breathed deep sighs of relief as she stopped twisting her bat o’ death, gave the Falcon hurler a long, quietly-menacing stare, then jogged down to first-base.

Your season totals for South Whidbey pitchers: three intentional walks to Crownover, counting one in an earlier game, but none to a single other Wolf.

The Falcons still paid in the third inning, though certainly not with the same sting a grand-slam would have offered.

Mackenzie Davis, following Crownover to the plate, whipped a low, blistering shot off the pitcher’s mitt, plating one Wolf, then Nicole Laxton sent a final run across the plate on a ground-out, garnering the first of her four RBI in the game.

Up 6-0, Coupeville was humming, but hit a brief bit of trouble in the third.

Rallying from two outs and nobody aboard, the Falcons strung together three straight hits and put their own three-spot on the scoreboard.

But, while it was a stumble, it was a brief one.

The Wolves answered right back in the fourth, with Laxton crushing a two-out, two-run single to stretch the margin back to 8-3, before the entire team started throwing down stellar defensive plays.

The first came from Smith, who moved to second base in the fourth, with freshman Izzy Wells stalking to the pitcher’s circle to take the ball.

Smith pulled off a nifty double-play to end the bottom of the inning, snagging a hot chopper, tagging a runner trying to sneak by, then pegging the ball deep into Crownover’s mitt.

The two teams exchanged two-run rallies in the fifth, then both went scoreless in the sixth, keeping the Wolf lead semi-safe at 10-5.

Bailey had the big blow in the fifth, walloping a two-run double, while Prescott and Crownover pulled off their own double plays to end the fifth and sixth, respectively.

Prescott scooped up a grounder, jumped on second for one out, then nailed the runner headed to first, all in one fluid move.

Crownover went her one better, moving only a single step for her twin-killing.

Glove snapping up, she yanked a liner out of the air, then nonchalantly stepped backwards and onto the bag at first, subtly waving bye-bye-bye to a Falcon runner who had taken off at bat contact only to find herself stuck in no man’s land.

While Coupeville led the entire way, the five-run margin still might have made for some tight collars, so the Wolves erased any doubts in the top of the seventh.

The first 10 batters in the inning reached base, and South Whidbey didn’t get an out until the field ump went blind and called Prescott out after she beat out a bunt by a good three steps.

Not that it mattered, as the Wolves had pushed eight runs across in the frame at that point, with the biggest hits being yet another RBI single by the smokin’ hot Laxton and a two-run double from Smith.

“We came out and scored in the first and never looked back,” CHS coach Kevin McGranahan said. “They fought us for a little while, but, in the end, we outhit them and played good defense.”

Coupeville spread its offense around, with Prescott (three singles), Wright (two doubles), Bailey (1B, 2B), Mathusek (two singles), and Laxton (two singles) leading the way.

Smith added a double, while Coral Caveness singled.

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   Katrina McGranahan, the reigning Olympic League MVP, was a two-way terror Friday as Coupeville smacked Klahowya and clinched its first league title in 16 years. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“What a day for Wolf fast-pitch!”

Coupeville High School softball coach Kevin McGranahan was beaming from ear to ear Friday afternoon, and why not?

He had just watched his Wolves torch visiting Klahowya 9-4, their fifth-straight win over the Eagles in the last two seasons.

With the win, Coupeville improves to 9-3 overall, 2-0 in Olympic League play and clinches the program’s first conference title since the vaunted 2002 Wolves, who went on to finish third at state.

With Chimacum and Port Townsend shutting down their softball teams for a season due to lack of players, the Olympic League became a two-team rumble this season.

After nabbing wins in the first two games of a three-game season series (the finale is Apr. 30 at Klahowya), Coupeville has clinched a title and the #1 playoff seed from the Olympic League.

The Wolves open the double-elimination portion of the West Central District 3 tourney May 18 against the #2 team from the Nisqually League.

Win two out of three games, and CHS softball is state-bound for the third time in its history and the first time since 2014.

Klahowya will have to survive a loser-out pigtail playoff game May 15 against the Nisqually League’s #3 team to join Coupeville in the double-elimination round.

While the Eagles had sat for nearly a month between games thanks to rain and scheduling issues, the Wolves have been playing at a steady clip, including a big win Thursday afternoon at La Conner.

That quickly showed.

“These ladies went out and took control and would not be denied,” Kevin McGranahan said. “They hit from the first batter on and everyone contributed in one way or another.

“League champs and half a season to prep for the postseason,” he added. “I am so proud for all the girls, but the seniors have fought from being less than mediocre to being dominant and doing it as a team and involving everyone.”

While senior spark-plug Lauren Rose was missing, gone to a college trip in Arizona, her compatriots, center-fielder Hope Lodell and pitcher Katrina McGranahan, came up huge in the spotlight.

The duo combined to rap five hits at the plate, while McGranahan carried a shut-out into the fifth and won her duel with Klahowya’s D1-bound hurler Amber Bumbalough.

Lodell, when she wasn’t slicing hits and running wild on the bags, also anchored a strong Wolf defense, vacuuming up anything that came her way in the outfield.

The tone of the game was set in the first inning, as both teams sent five hitters to the plate, but only one scored.

Klahowya put a pair of runners aboard in the top half, including the first of two intentional walks to Bumbalough, as Wolf coaches never gave the homer-happy Eagle standout a chance to get hot early at the plate.

The Eagles couldn’t do anything with the opportunity, however, as Katrina McGranahan punched out back-to-back hitters, giving her three K’s in the inning, to strand runners at second and third.

The reigning Olympic League MVP (she succeeded two-time winner Bumbalough last season) immediately made her impact felt with the bat, as well.

With Scout Smith perched on third after a mammoth lead-off double to center and a passed ball, Killer Kat whacked an RBI single back up the middle.

While Coupeville couldn’t get any more runs across in the inning, it signaled that the Wolves, who collected 12 hits on the day, were grooving on what Klahowya pitching was offering.

From there the Wolves steadily pulled away, plating two in the second, blowing things open with four in the third, then adding a solitary run in the fourth as they built an 8-0 lead.

The second inning was kicked off by a walk to Veronica Crownover, followed by three solid base-knocks from the next four Wolf hitters.

Lodell sliced a shot to left field, curling it just inside the line, while Emma Mathusek and Smith poked back-to-back RBI singles to put a zing in the step of every Wolf fan.

The third inning was the killer, starting with a stand-up triple to the deepest, darkest regions of right field from clean-up hitter Sarah Wright.

After the Wolf catcher bolted home to score on a passed ball, the Wolves went right back to work with their bats.

Crownover and Lodell singled, Mackenzie Davis hit a hard chopper and used an unexpected burst of speed to force a Klahowya error, then it was “Mathusek Time” again.

The sophomore sensation, coming up mega-big time from the #9 slot, laced a two-run single to right and the Coupeville faithful erupted like Old Faithful going off.

Katrina McGranahan was back at it again in the fourth, walloping a triple of her own, then scooting home on a ground-out off of Wright’s bat.

The Eagles finally broke through in the fifth, plating two runners, but Coupeville’s defense, led by freshman second-baseman Coral Caveness, shut things down quickly.

With Rose out of town, Caveness got her second-straight start and was in full lock-down mode, fielding pop-ups, snagging liners and pulling off the web gem of the day.

That play came in the top of the seventh, after a Crownover RBI single stretched the lead back to 9-2.

KSS used a double and a note-perfect bunt single to put runners at the corners, briefly lighting a flicker of hope in its dugout.

Which Caveness promptly snuffed right out, pulling off one of the sweeter double plays we will see all season.

Snagging a liner on the move, she whirled and cut down the runner who had strayed off of first, driving a nearly-final stake through the heart of the Eagles.

With a seven-run lead and one out away from a league title, Kevin McGranahan went against the odds and gave Bumbalough a shot to swing away in her final at-bat in her final visit to Cow Town.

And while she hammered a two-run, inside-the-park home run to say goodbye, the Wolves ended the game on the next batter, ensuring no one will dwell too long on the tater.

The final ball was a chopper to third, where fab frosh Chelsea Prescott, who likely wasn’t alive in 2002, gathered the ball in and calmly fired it on a line to Crownover, who stamped on first and made a bit of prairie history.

Katrina McGranahan (1B, 1B, 3B) paced the Wolf offense, while Smith (1B, 2B), Crownover (1B, 1B), Lodell (1B, 1B), Mathusek (1b, 1B) and Wright (3B) helped out.

“A huge team win. Everyone has chipped in, up and down the line, in this game and through the season,” Kevin McGranahan said. “This is what we strove for. (Winning a title) feels good; they earned it.

“I couldn’t be more proud of every young lady wearing a Wolf fast-pitch uniform, varsity or JV; it takes everyone to do this.”

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First-year CHS volleyball coach Cory Whitmore has guided the Wolf spikers to their first league title since 2004. (John Fisken photo)

   First-year CHS volleyball coach Cory Whitmore has guided the Wolf spikers to their first league title since 2004. (John Fisken photo)

Your 2016 1A Olympic League volleyball champions. (Photo courtesy Konni Smith)

   Your 2016 1A Olympic League volleyball champions. (Photo courtesy Konni Smith)

It took Cory Whitmore 12 matches to do something not accomplished in the previous 11 seasons.

The first-year Coupeville High School volleyball coach led the Wolves to their first league title since 2004, clinching with a straight-sets win Thursday at Port Townsend.

The 25-19, 25-17, 25-23 victory lifts the Wolves to 6-0 in 1A Olympic League play, 9-3 overall.

While it has three regular season matches left, Coupeville is three games up on Chimacum and Klahowya (both 3-3), and owns tiebreakers on both schools, having already beaten them both twice.

Next up for the Wolves?

Making a run at going 9-0 in league play, a feat accomplished the past two seasons by the CHS girls’ basketball team, but never by a league volleyball team.

In 2014 and 2015 Klahowya went 6-0 and won back-to-back titles, before the league schedule was expanded to nine matches this season to sync up with baseball, softball, soccer and basketball.

The Wolves can also continue their run at the school single-season record for wins — 13 in 2004 — and get ready to open postseason play at home.

As the #1 seed from the Olympic League, Coupeville advances to the double-elimination portion of districts, an event they host Nov. 5.

They’ll need to win two matches that day, while losing no more than one, to advance to state.

To see the bracket, pop over to: http://www.olympicleague.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2069&sport=10

The league title is the fourth in program history, following Northwest League titles in 1997, 2001 and 2004.

Kim Meche coached the first two of those teams, while Toni Crebbin was in command of the record-setting ’04 team, which also won a tri-district title and toppled the #1 ranked team in the state.

Those Wolves split four matches with arch-rival La Conner, the state champ that year, beating the Braves for the league title, but falling to them at the big dance.

Thursday night, CHS didn’t play lights out, but it stayed in control all match and put the hammer down when appropriate.

“It was good to pull out the win tonight on the road playing everyone,” Whitmore said. “The girls worked hard to be in the position to be league champions.

“To accomplish this and clinch first place is a result of that hard work and a goal met.”

The Wolves spread out the stats, with Ashley Menges (11 assists and five service aces), Lauren Rose (eight assists, four aces) and Hope Lodell (five kills, five digs) leading the attack.

Sarah Wright cranked out a season-high four kills, while senior captain Valen Trujillo led the squad with 17 digs as she continued to add to her school career record.

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Payton Aparicio (John Fisken photo)

   Payton Aparicio had nine service aces and six kills Tuesday, sparking Coupeville to a straight-sets win over Klahowya. (John Fisken photo)

There’s a new boss in volleyball land.

The first two years of the 1A Olympic League Klahowya went a combined 12-0 in league play and won back-to-back titles.

That time is done.

Playing inspired, extremely balanced ball on its home court Tuesday night, the Coupeville High School spikers roared to a convincing straight-sets win over the Eagles, moving within a win of clinching the 2016 crown.

The 25-13, 27-25, 25-18 victory lifts the Wolves to 5-0 in league play, 8-3 overall.

CHS is three games up on Chimacum and Klahowya, who are both 3-3 in conference action.

Since the Wolves already own the tiebreaker over both those schools, a win Thursday at Port Townsend (0-5) will clinch Coupeville’s first volleyball league title since 2001.

Win the crown and CHS gets a boost come playoff time, as the #1 seed from the Olympic League starts the postseason in the double-elimination round of districts.

Win twice (while playing on its home court, as Coupeville hosts districts Nov. 5) and the Wolves are state-bound.

To see the bracket, pop over to: http://www.olympicleague.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2069&sport=10

And, while they continue to take it one match at a time, the Wolves, who have four regular-season bouts left, now have the most wins by a CHS varsity squad since the 2009 team went 9-6.

If the Wolves continue to play like they did Tuesday, they might make some serious inroads on the school single-season mark of 13 victories, set in 2004.

Coupeville, after a brief hiccup to start the match, lit Klahowya up with a mix of dazzling serves and bone-crunching hits.

Hope Lodell kicked things off, unleashing three straight scorching serves to spark the Wolves to their first lead of the night at 4-3, then Payton Aparicio got nasty and really blew the hinges off the door.

After dropping in a tip for a winner at 8-6, the Wolf junior strolled to the service line and ripped off nine straight winners.

The first eight balls never came back over the net, as the Eagles struggled mightily to solve Aparicio, before Emma Smith dropped a huge spike to push the lead to 17-6.

While Smith’s winner was a crowd-pleaser, it was probably only her third-hardest-hit ball of the evening, as the sophomore slugger opened a can of whup-ass on Klahowya that had no end in sight.

Maybe feeling a bit left out, Wolf teammate Mikayla Elfrank came swinging into the spotlight, capping the opening set with a pair of emphatic winners.

One was on a ferocious spike that tore off a rival girl’s arm, the other on a tip in which Elfrank tiptoed up a staircase to heaven before delicately redirecting the ball into the only open space on the floor.

To give Klahowya credit, the Eagles refused to bend easily, running out to a 17-10 lead in the second set.

While Katrina McGranahan lashed a noisy winner off of linesman Steve Kiel’s ankle and Aparicio put together another strong run on serve, things seemed to be headed towards split sets.

Except Coupeville wasn’t having any of that.

Rallying behind the steady serving of unflappable Lauren Rose, the Wolves came all the way back to take the lead, then surrendered it just as suddenly, then pulled the set win out with a bang.

Suffice it to say, it was a wild ride, especially for hyperventilating parents in the stands.

Elfrank went airborne like a ballerina with serious hops to drop in a tip, McGranahan peeled three layers of paint off the floor with a spike which exploded loud enough to wake up the dead and suddenly CHS was up 24-22 and on a 12-5 run.

Cue the sucker-punch, as a couple of mishits put Klahowya back up 25-24.

Enter Aparicio, silent as a ninja, slapping teammate Valen Trujillo’s hand for good luck, then delivering a knockout one-two punch.

First she dropped a note-perfect tip, perfectly angling it so it bounced off the posterior of a fallen foe, then she elevated and ripped a slicing spike down the line for another winner.

With CHS back in front by a point, Ashley Menges put the set away, ripping a service winner off of a Klahowya returner’s arm and letting the crowd breathe again.

There was still a set to play, but the Eagles were done, shoulders sagging, the fight ebbing from their bodies.

They tried to pull it together for a few nice rallies, but Coupeville could see the finish line and was surging.

Winners came from every direction, both expected — Smith and Elfrank mashing winners at 110 MPH — and unexpected — Lodell throwing out a balled-up fist at the last second and not only saving the ball, but redirecting it for a winner.

Appropriately on a night when she could seem to do little wrong, the final point of the match came from Aparicio, who let loose with one final service winner and then jumped into her teammate’s arms.

The resounding victory, coming on a night when the CHS spikers honored those fighting breast cancer, brought a smile to their coach’s face.

“I was very happy with our composure all night,” said Cory Whitmore. “Even when we were trailing, we chipped away and focused on fixing any issues on our side of the net instead of worrying about what the other team was doing.”

The stat sheet was exactly the way the volleyball guru likes to see it — balanced in the extreme.

Aparicio led the way with nine service aces and six kills, while Lodell (nine digs, five aces, four kills), Menges (11 assists, four aces) and Rose (nine assists, four aces) all chipped in.

Trujillo went low for nine digs, while McGranahan (7), Smith (4) and Elfrank (4) all soared for key kills.

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Katrina McGranahan (John Fisken photos)

Katrina McGranahan uncorks a killer serve. (John Fisken photos)

celebrate

   Wolves (l to r) Emma Smith, Allison Wenzel and Sarah Wright celebrate a big point.

It’s in their hands.

Sweep its matches this week and the Coupeville High School volleyball squad clinches its first league title since 2001.

The Wolves, who sit atop the 1A Olympic League at 4-0, host Klahowya Tuesday (4 PM varsity/5:15 JV and C-Team), then hop across the water to face Port Townsend Thursday.

Win both and they’ll be 6-0, which would put them three games up on both Chimacum and two-time defending league champ Klahowya with three matches to play.

Since they would then finish no worse than a tie with either rival, and would own the tiebreaker over both schools, the command would go out — order a new title board for the CHS Wall of Fame.

Coupeville’s two previous league titles in volleyball came in 1997 and ’01, when the Wolves played in the Northwest Conference.

While nothing is set in stone yet, CHS volleyball reaching for the crown is the highlight of this week’s look at the current league standings in the four fall sports the Wolves compete in.

Rain-outs stung the Wolf netters, as matches against Klahowya and Chimacum were washed away.

With Coupeville having already clinched the title, neither bout will be rescheduled, which costs CHS a chance to add to its overall collection of league wins.

Picking up a win in soccer, Klahowya moved up into a tie with Coupeville, with 13 varsity wins across the fall sports.

Port Townsend (5) and Chimacum (3) are well back.

Those numbers will change tonight, as two football games which were knocked out Friday by the closing of the Hood Canal Bridge (Klahowya at Port Townsend and Chimacum at Vashon Island) will be played.

Standings through Monday morning:

Olympic/Nisqually League football:

School League Overall
Cascade Christian 4-0 7-0
Port Townsend 3-0 4-2
Klahowya 2-1 4-2
Bellevue Christian 2-2 2-5
Charles Wright 2-2 3-4
COUPEVILLE 1-3 2-5
Chimacum 0-3 1-5
Vashon Island 0-3 0-6

Olympic League volleyball:

School League Overall
COUPEVILLE 4-0 7-3
Klahowya 3-2 4-5
Chimacum 3-3 6-6
Port Townsend 0-5 2-8

Olympic League girls soccer:

School League Overall
Klahowya 5-0 7-1-2
COUPEVILLE 4-1 6-4-1
Port Townsend 2-4 3-7-1
Chimacum 0-6 1-7-1

Olympic League boys tennis:

School League Overall
COUPEVILLE 4-0 5-7
Klahowya 3-2 4-8
Chimacum 0-5 0-12

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