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Raven Vick and Coupeville volleyball are 12-2 heading into their regular-season finale. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Big hitters like Zoe Trujillo are ready to wreak havoc in the playoffs.

The experts have spoken.

If the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association knows what it’s talking about, Coupeville is going back to the state tournament this season.

When the first poll of the season was released earlier this week, the Wolves were one of 16 teams (the same number which go to state) to receive votes, landing at #15, between Kiona-Benton and Klahowya.

But, as good as CHS has been this season, winning 36 of 46 sets, they also happen to sit in the same league as King’s, which was ranked #2 in that poll, behind just Chelan.

And the Knights have been the one team the Wolves just haven’t been able to solve … yet.

Thursday night, playing on its home court in Shoreline, King’s held off a scrappy Coupeville squad, winning 25-9, 25-13, 25-15 to claim a second-straight North Sound Conference title.

With one regular-season match left to play, the Knights (9-0 in league play, 13-0 overall) and Wolves (7-2, 12-2) are locked in as the league’s #1 and #2 seeds for the district playoffs.

Cedar Park Christian (5-3, 10-4), South Whidbey (3-5, 4-8), and Sultan (2-7, 6-9) are also headed to the post-season, while Granite Falls (0-9, 3-11) has been eliminated.

To see the bracket for districts, pop over to:

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

Coupeville has mashed everyone not in a King’s uniform this season, only dropping four sets to other schools, but hasn’t been able to match the Knights mix of big hitters and impeccable passers.

But the Wolves did take a step forward from their performance in the first match-up between the schools.

“King’s is a very good team and we needed to access a new level of play and couldn’t quite find that gear,” said CHS coach Cory Whitmore. “We passed much better than our previous meeting with them and handled some real tough serves but couldn’t get the ball to the ground on their side often enough.”

He praised the play of his team, with a special tip of the hat to senior smasher Maya Toomey-Stout.

Maya had a massive game for us,” Whitmore said. “Very calm on the pass, took a ton of swings and played all-out in the middle back position digging their widespread attack.”

Toomey-Stout finished with four kills, three digs, and two blocks, while Scout Smith (12 assists, two digs), Zoe Trujillo (five kills), and Hannah Davidson (four kills and a block) also sparkled.

Emma Mathusek added three digs, Lucy Tenore and Maddie Vondrak each delivered a spike, and Lucy Sandahl zipped a service ace past the Knights defense.

Coupeville closes the regular season on the road Monday, traveling to Sultan, and a win would match the most victories in a single season by a Whitmore-coached CHS squad.

The 2019 team is just two wins shy of the best mark in program history, the 14 wins thrown down by the immortal 2004 Wolf spikers.

As he and his team prepare for their playoff run, Whitmore has a simple answer to how Coupeville can bounce back from their loss to King’s.

“Back to practice, to focus on our long-term goals.”

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Maya Lucero prepares to unleash sweet death ‘n destruction on her foes. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It was a fight to the finish. A back-alley brawl. A royal rumble.

In other words, a very, very close match.

The Coupeville High School C-Team volleyball squad has only lost to one school this season, and both of those defeats have been by just a handful of points.

The Wolf freshmen are 7-2 in North Sound Conference play, 8-2 overall, with the only small dings on their record coming thanks to the big baddie of the region, private school power King’s.

Thursday night’s tango in Shoreline was about as close as possible, with Coupeville winning the first set 25-20, before the Knights bounced back to take sets #2 and #3 by the very same score.

While she was looking for a win, CHS coach Krimson Rector was still in a positive mood while bouncing across the back-roads of America in a school bus on the way home.

“The girls played strong and focused through all three sets,” she said. “It was a good, competitive game that with the right swing of momentum I think we could’ve had.

“Regardless, the girls got a lot of play in with long rallies and big points.”

Facing off with their toughest foe by far, the young Wolves showed their coach they won’t back down.

“I was proud of the girls ability to keep their minds focused while having a strong competitor do the same,” Rector said. “The girls played hard through each point of each set until that last whistle.”

Jordyn Rogers led the Wolf attack, rifling six kills and three service aces, while the Lucero twins combined for a strong evening, with Maya nabbing five kills and an ace, while Allie had four aces and a kill.

Coupeville also got solid work from Ryanne Knoblich (four kills and an ace), Vivian Farris (four aces), Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson (an ace), and spark-plug Gwen Gustafson.

Gwen played great defense across the net from some strong hitters,” Rector said. “And stayed calm and collected while digging balls left and right.”

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Audrianna Shaw played big Thursday, as CHS soccer won a 1-0 thriller to earn a home playoff game. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Anna Dion, seen on Senior Night, scored the night’s only goal.

Home cookin’ paid off nicely.

Coupeville and Sultan played three high school girls soccer games this fall, with the host team coming out on top 1-0 each time.

Good news for Wolf fans? The final two meetings, including one Thursday night in a league tie-breaker, were played on Whidbey Island.

With a playoff berth at stake, CHS senior Anna Dion survived a wild scrum in front of the net in stoppage time, bashing in the night’s only goal in a must-win game.

With the victory, Coupeville, which sits at 2-12-2, earns the North Sound Conference’s fifth, and final, ticket to the postseason.

While Sultan is left to plan its awards banquet, the Wolves host the #4 seed from the Northwest Conference Saturday at Mickey Clark Field.

Kickoff is 1 PM, the game is free of charge to the public, and the opponent will be Mount Baker, which is 0-16 on the season.

The winner of Saturday’s royal rumble advances to play Cedar Park Christian in another loser-out district playoff game Monday in Bothell.

Thursday night’s tilt featured two very evenly-matched teams, especially with the Wolves missing injured starters Genna Wright, Natalie Hollrigel, and Sophia Martin.

Even minus that trio, Coupeville has a better offense than Sultan, but the Turks counter with senior goaltender Amanda McKay, who lets very, very little get past her.

“She is an awesome goalie,” said Coupeville coach Kyle Nelson. “I think she might be the best in the league.”

With the Wolves peppering her with shots, or, in the case of Avalon Renninger, flat-out blowing her up in an inadvertent collision (more on that later), McKay was under constant attack.

You’d never know it, however, as the Turk net-minder played calmly, moved smoothly, anticipated nearly everything, and gave her team a fighting chance.

On the opposite side of the field, Coupeville junior goalie Mollie Bailey didn’t face as many shots, but stood just as tall.

Playing for all the generations of her family which have worn the Wolf colors (spoiler: it’s a lot), the prairie legend dove for balls, deflected shots, and made a superb snag to deny a Turk corner kick which got dangerously close to hitting pay-dirt.

Bailey had help from her defense, anchored by old-school warrior Tia Wurzrainer and new-school sensations Nezi Keiper and Carolyn Lhamon.

Toss in Audrianna Shaw, who spent much of the night knocking Sultan players on their butt, and Coupeville was in full-on lock-down mode.

But while the Wolves kept one half of the scoreboard sitting with a nice big zero on it, all the shooters in the world didn’t seem able to break McKay.

Mallory Kortuem, zipping in and out of traffic, ball on her foot as she out-raced Turk defenders, crashed the net hard, while Renninger rifled high, arcing shots off of her golden left foot.

To which McKay replied, “Denied. Denied. And denied some more.”

Right after making a sensational diving save on a Kortuem shot with four minutes left in the first half, Sultan’s goalie found herself down on the ground and in a bit of a jam.

Renninger, rampaging in front of the net, went up and over McKay, doing a gymnast-worthy flip, only to see her foe vacuum up her potential game-busting goal while prone on the ground.

Popping back up, Coupeville’s effervescent captain stopped long enough to pat Sultan’s goaltender on the back, one classy competitor acknowledging another, then rambled off to create havoc elsewhere.

With the game knotted at 0-0 at the break, the teams, playing less than 24 hours after the regular-season finales, upped the intensity in the second half.

Renninger launched shot after shot, with a free kick from the left side of the field her best opportunity, but McKay wouldn’t break.

And neither would Bailey, one eye on the clock, one eye searching for any photographers who might be snapping her photo.

Casual fans were on the edge of their seats.

Die-hard soccer nuts were under their seats, pleading for a miracle.

And the game seemed destined to head to sudden-death overtime. Possibly even all the way to a penalty-kick shootout.

Neither goalie would crack.

Neither goalie would bend.

Neither goalie would be beaten.

Until it happened, with the clock frozen at 2:00, no one but the lead ref knowing how much time remained in regulation.

Launching a fierce assault on the net, Coupeville sent everyone in uniform (seemingly), while Sultan’s defenders made the kind of final stand made famous by the Spartans once upon a time.

As the scrum erupted, bodies were everywhere, arms swinging, legs pumping, the ball pinging from foot to knee, and then, in the madness, a heroine arose.

Dion, whose brilliant scientific mind will carry her far, has devoted the past four years of her life to the CHS soccer program, a role player willing to sacrifice for others, always the first to celebrate the accomplishments of her teammates.

She’s scored in three of her four seasons, missing out just as a sophomore, but, at a little before 6 PM on a balmy Whidbey Thursday night late in October, 2019, she created the moment which will cement her legacy with Wolf fans.

The ball disappeared into a sea of humanity, McKay lunged, and Anna “The Turk Killer” Dion, fighting just to stay on her feet in the crush, slid her foot under the ball and slapped it past the incoming Sultan goalie.

For one moment, one small, shining slice of time, everything went dead quiet.

And then utter bedlam broke, as Dion’s shot was welcomed by the back of the net, and Anna herself went to the ground, mobbed by a pack of teammates intent on crushing her in their glee.

The stadium shook, the pitch quaked, and, off on the far sideline, Coupeville’s coach, the coolest cat in Cow Town, nodded ever so slightly and smiled, but just a bit.

Ever the strategist, Nelson knew there were still a few ticks left on the clock, a small shard of time for the Wolf defense to withstand a final Turk assault.

If he worried, he need not have bothered, as his hyped-up squad retained control of the ball after Dion’s score, refusing to give Sultan a chance.

Instead, the Wolves rattled off two more shots on goal of their own before the final whistle blared.

Neither went in, but it mattered not.

Anna Dion had already conquered the world, and taken her team along for the wild ride.

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Anna Dion and CHS soccer hosts Sultan Thursday, with a playoff berth on the line. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Mallory Kortuem, being smooched on by mom Heather, scored her second goal of the season Wednesday night as Coupeville celebrated Senior Night.

They’re coming back for at least one encore, and maybe two.

Despite falling 6-1 to visiting Granite Falls Wednesday in a rough-and-tumble, yellow card-filled bout on Senior Night, the Coupeville High School girls soccer team hasn’t played its final game on its home turf.

The loss, combined with Sultan being blanked 3-0 by Cedar Park Christian, leaves Coupeville tied with the Turks for the final playoff berth from the North Sound Conference.

The Wolves (1-9 in league play, 1-12-2 overall) host Sultan (1-9, 1-13-2) Thursday at 5 PM in a tie-breaker game.

Free to the public, the rumble will run half the length of a normal game, with two 20-minute halves.

If the teams are tied at the end of regulation, there will be up to two five-minute sudden-death overtime periods, with a penalty-kick shootout at the end if we’re still knotted up.

The loser is done for the season, while the winner advances to host a district play-in playoff game Saturday.

That game would be at 1 PM, would also be free, and would feature Mount Baker as the opponent.

If Coupeville survives playing both Sultan and Baker, it advances to face the #3 team from the North Sound Conference, either CPC (5-5, 8-6) or Granite (5-5, 8-7), in another loser-out game Monday, Oct. 28.

Every playoff game from Monday on would be a road game for the Wolves, with admission charged.

Wednesday marked the end of the regular season for NSC soccer teams, with previously undefeated South Whidbey “Cougin’ it” and losing 2-0 at King’s to blow its shot at winning an uncontested league title.

The Falcons (9-1, 13-1-1) and Knights (9-1, 12-4) tie for the title, with each having won 2-0 on their home turf.

While that game was for the title, Coupeville’s tilt on the pitch was a much-more emotional affair, as the Wolves honored their five seniors.

Avalon Renninger, Mallory Kortuem, Anna Dion, Tia Wurzrainer, and Natalie Hollrigel were showered with praise, applause, and hugs, while Sherry Roberts read their farewell notes to a packed crowd.

Full of good will for all, the Wolves then hit the field, only to run into one of the rougher teams it has played this season.

As the battle raged on, players from both sides went down (though no one seemed to suffer any permanent injuries) and the refs spent a decent amount of time waving yellow cards, even handing one out to ultra-cool CHS coach Kyle Nelson.

Granite Falls broke a scoreless tie a little over 10 minutes into the game, winning a one-on-one battle, as a Tiger came crashing in hot and pegged a ball just out of the reach of Wolf goalie Mollie Bailey.

The Coupeville junior, hitting her stride again after returning from an earlier shoulder injury, did her best to combat frequent shots on goals, deflecting balls from all angles.

One play, on which Bailey slid to her right and punched the ball away as it came zinging towards her head, was especially sweet, and earned a roar from the pro-Wolf crowd.

The visitors had the magic touch, however, and knocked in two more goals late in the first half to take a 3-0 lead into the locker room.

With the margin mushrooming out to 5-0, Coupeville got a trio of second-half highlights from Kortuem, which put a more-positive spin on things.

The speedy Wolf star blasted in her second goal of the season, and sixth of her career, to get Coupeville on the board, then she got defensive.

Kortuem first blew up a rival in the open field, dumping a hapless Tiger on her rear, before pulling off a sensational save.

With a Granite player WAY, WAY ahead of her and making a mad dash at the goal, the school record holder in the 400 hit the jets, came flying in like a runaway missile, slid, and deftly knocked the ball free at the last second.

The crowd’s first reaction was stunned silence, as their brains tried to comprehend what they had just witnessed.

Then the stadium rocked, waves of adulation rolling down for Kortuem, one of the best to ever wear the Wolf uniform.

While Coupeville’s coach prefers to focus on team accomplishments instead of singling out players, he was willing to shower some praise on his pack of seniors after the game.

“They’ve been awesome, stepped up and become true leaders of this team,” Nelson said. “Each has been successful in their own way and brought their own talents, and it’s made for a very cohesive team, and one which has had a lot of fun.”

Fun which isn’t over just yet.

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Maya Toomey-Stout pounded 11 kills, went low for nine digs, and zinged four service aces Tuesday as Coupeville shredded Granite Falls. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The Wolves honored their seniors before the match. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Young)

All the spikes, all the emotions.

In the midst of the roar of the crowd, in between the hugs of parents and siblings, they stood together Tuesday night.

Eight young women, seniors all, talented volleyball players and better people.

And in the middle of the scrum, the coach who has guided them for their entire high school journey, a man who has transformed the Coupeville High School volleyball program.

There is a chance these Wolf spikers will never play on their home floor again, that a straight-sets Senior Night win against visiting Granite Falls, will be their swan song on the CHS floor.

But there is also an even bigger chance the Wolves, now 12-1, matching the 2004 team for the best record through 13 matches by any CHS team, will be back.

That, after ending the regular season with matches at King’s Thursday and Sultan Oct. 28, Coupeville will play well enough at the district playoffs (Nov. 2 and 5) to make it to the second day of the two-day tourney.

Which would put them back on their home court, as the final five district matches, with five berths to the bi-district tournament at stake, will be held at Coupeville’s gyms.

Wolf coach Cory Whitmore, now 47-17 across four seasons at CHS, would love to have his team take the floor in front of their home fans again.

But that’s still down the road, and, for the moment, he and his seniors were content to enjoy their 25-21, 25-11, 25-16 win over Granite, and the pre-match festivities which went with it.

“A great Senior Night with a fantastic group of seniors and their families!,” Whitmore said. “This group has meant so much to me for four years, and I’m so proud and honored to be their coach and mentor.

“We have more goals to reach together, and, as always, this group looks forward to the challenge.”

With the win, the Wolves, 7-1 in league play, clinched at least second-place in the NSC for a second-straight season, while keeping alive hopes of catching King’s (8-0, 12-0) for the conference crown.

Cedar Park Christian (5-3, 10-4) could still tie Coupeville record-wise, but CHS swept CPC this season, giving the Wolves the tiebreaker.

South Whidbey (3-5, 4-8), Sultan (1-7, 4-9), and Granite Falls (0-8, 3-10) round out the current standings.

Tuesday night was about remembering the past, celebrating the present, and playing for the future.

With the exception of their first match-up with King’s, the Wolves have drilled opponents left and right, and Granite, while willing to put up a fight, could do little to derail a team with so many weapons.

The match opened with Maya Toomey-Stout blasting a savage kill which jumped off her hand and shot cross-court, evading two Granite defenders, and Coupeville rarely let up.

A Hannah Davidson spike which bounced off a rival’s upper arm staked the Wolves to an early lead, then two big kills from a red-hot Zoe Trujillo stretched the lead way out.

Both of Trujillo’s put-aways were set up by strong hustle plays from her fellow seniors.

On the first, Emma Mathusek, the unflappable, often unsung heart and soul of the squad, sold out, sacrificing her body to peel a ball off the floor, before Toomey-Stout showed off her world-class talent and heart on the second.

Coming from the back side of the floor, on a ball which wasn’t hers (but no one else was going to reach it), “The Gazelle” slid halfway down the court on her stomach, flipping the ball skyward at the last second and right onto Trujillo’s waiting kill hand.

“I said I wasn’t going to cry, but that almost made me tear up a bit,” Whitmore said with a big smile.

Mouths agape, the Granite players were noticeably impressed. But, to their credit, they didn’t completely crack, continuing to try and chip away at the lead.

From eight points down, the Tigers got within 3-4 points a couple times in the first frame, but each time a Wolf stepped up to put down the rally.

Maddie Vondrak, one of just a handful of non-seniors on the Wolf varsity (she was joined on the floor Tuesday by Lucy Tenore and Kylie Chernikoff, while Chelsea Prescott continued to rehab a hurt ankle), mashed a crowd-pleasing kill.

Then it was Toomey-Stout’s turn once again, a kill erupting from her hand and ending the set on a positive bang.

The second set was Coupeville’s from start to finish, with Raven Vick, Lucy Sandahl, and Scout Smith all putting together runs at the service line, while Trujillo painted the corners of the court with laser-riffic kills.

Smith pulled off a master class in deception on one point, suckering the Granite defense into believing she was launching a pass, before twisting her body into a pretzel in mid-air and dropping a lil’ flick shot into the smallest of gaps.

But while that shot was pure art, Coupeville lived and thrilled on pure power much of the evening, so it was sort of fitting the final point of the frame came via Trujillo launching a running spike which crash-landed with an emphatic bang.

At times this season, the Wolves have roared out to a two-set lead, then “napped” a bit in the third set. Not so this time out.

Making sure the match would end in a quick, efficient manner, Coupeville unloaded every spike in its arsenal in the final frame, with Trujillo and Vondrak staging a super-friendly, but fierce, competition to see who could scare the Tigers more.

Trujillo painted the corner on a kill, tore off some random body parts on a couple of other blasts, then capped things with a mammoth shot.

To which Vondrak bowed in the direction of her older teammate, smiled slightly, and brought out the gun show.

“The Mad Masher” tore off the back line for a point, nailed another winner by launching the ball from corner to corner, then lingered at the net as Willow Vick fired off a smokin’ serve on match point.

Granite got the ball back into play (barely), but as it flopped back over the net, Vondrak shot straight up and ripped the cover off the ball, before bouncing back to Earth, smile a mile wide as her teammates rushed her.

Off to the side, their coach nodded and lightly tapped his clipboard in approval.

“We have really been focusing on the team concept, and everyone played big parts in this win,” Whitmore said. “We stayed calm and composed and never let anything get out of control tonight.

“I’m through the roof for these girls.”

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