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Posts Tagged ‘Northwest League’

Coupeville HS/MS Athletic Director Willie Smith uses his powers judiciously. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

With great power comes great responsibility.

As Coupeville High School transitions from 1A down to 2B, Athletic Director Willie Smith has new options at his fingertips, but will be careful in how he deploys these.

One rule which has caught the eyes of a lot of parents and athletes is the one which allows 2B schools to use 8th graders on high school teams.

It’s allowed in two situations.

In the first, if Coupeville Middle School doesn’t offer a specific sports program which the high school does, such as tennis, softball, or baseball, 8th graders can be allowed to play up.

In the second, if a high school program has a significantly low turnout, 8th graders may be used to “save” a varsity team or allow a school to field both full varsity and JV squads.

But…

While it’s possible we may see 8th graders participate on a Coupeville High School sports team, it will only happen under the second set of circumstances.

This is largely because Smith is doing his due diligence, seeking to work hand-in-hand with his fellow AD’s in the Northwest 2B/1B League, while creating an equal playing field for all eight schools in that revamped league.

Even though there are some talented CMS athletes who will be 8th graders next school year, the Wolves will resist the temptation to supplement their high school rosters just because they can.

If there is not a genuine need to keep a high school program afloat, middle school remains middle school, and high school remains high school.

“The intent of the rule is to help 1B/2B schools who may have low turnout numbers be able to field a varsity or junior varsity team,” Smith said. “If the numbers of participants are above those set numbers we will not even consider moving an 8th grade student up to the high school level.

“If a program is close in numbers to be able to field a sub-varsity (JV) program then we would consider moving up an 8th grade athlete or athletes IF they were willing to do so and IF it allowed us to participate with two full varsity and sub-varsity programs.”

The WIAA has set guidelines for roster size in five sports, and allows 2B schools to use 8th graders if turnout is below these numbers.

They are:

Baseball (25)
Basketball (16)
Soccer (25)
Softball (25)
Volleyball (17)

During the 2019-2020 school year, when Coupeville was still a 1A school and could not have taken advantage of the rule, its baseball program was well under the set number.

In those other four sports, CHS was at, or well above, the cutoffs.

Tennis, cross country, and track are not included on the list, though a similar philosophy of “saving” programs would likely be in effect.

While the latter two of those sports continue to have strong turnouts, tennis has taken a hit in recent seasons, with longtime coach Ken Stange working with some of his thinnest rosters in years.

Football is not included, as it can NOT use 8th graders.

As Coupeville adjusts to a new classification and opportunities, a key will be working smoothly with its new league mates.

“In discussing this with our 2B/1B League schools, who have had this rule at their disposal for many years now, they were clear that the intent of the rule, as well as the implementation of the rule by our league members has always been based on numbers and the salvaging of a program,” Smith said.

“Philosophically, this makes full sense to both myself and our administration and follows the same philosophy as outlined by league members.”

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Kyle Nelson is stepping down as CHS boys soccer coach, but will continue to coach the Wolf girls squad. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything is in flux.

When Coupeville High School drops classifications, moving from 1A to 2B starting with the 2020-2021 school year, soccer will be in transition.

At the 1A level, girls soccer plays in the fall, and the boys take the field in the spring.

That’s not true at 2B, however, where all soccer is played in the fall.

With the teams now sharing a season, Kyle Nelson, who previously coached both CHS squads, has decided to step away from the boys program.

He will remain as the Wolf girls coach as the team joins the Northwest 2B/1B League, while the school will hire a new boys head coach.

“We looked at the schedule and we both thought that it just wouldn’t be fair to either program to have him try to coach both at the same time,” said CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith.

There were several dates on the schedule where both the Wolf boys and girls had games, with one squad on the road and one at home.

Add in the crush of running practices for two programs at the same time, and doing a twofer in the same season is a lot to ask of anyone.

Kyle is really excited about the girls program and wants to build it,” Smith said. “Obviously, he was very disappointed in not being able to finish this (boys) season (because of COVID-19), as he was very excited and optimistic about the team this year.

“Both he and I felt that this boys team would have competed at a very high level within the league and could have made some definite headway into the playoffs.”

Nelson started as an assistant coach with the CHS boys program, then moved up to head coach in 2014 after Paul Mendes retired.

He added the girls head coaching job in 2017.

“It’s been amazing having Kyle coach both programs over the past few years,” Smith said. “I couldn’t have asked for a more steady, level-headed, character-driven coach who has a passion for teaching his teams to play the correct way.”

Once he got done blushing, Nelson chimed in, offering his perspective on the change.

“There was just no way to continue to do both with games on different days and different places; there really is no choice but to have two head coaches,” he said. “That meant I had to make the “choice”.

“I have enjoyed my time coaching the boys fully. I originally went into coaching soccer to be involved in the program with my two sons (Loren and William) as they went through high school,” Nelson added.

“I was lucky enough to start by being an assistant with Coach Mendes, who I was able to learn so much from.

“So, at this point nine years later, I feel I have run my course with the boys program and they are ready for a new coach.

“The girls, on the other hand, I have only had three years with.

“I feel like we are just getting started, and I am looking forward to continuing our work.”

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Carolyn Lhamon and CHS girls soccer jump to the Northwest 2B/1B League this fall. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

OK, this one is a bit simpler.

Mostly.

When Coupeville High School bounces from 1A to 2B next school year, most Wolf sports programs will relocate from the 1A North Sound Conference to the Northwest 2B/1B League.

Boys tennis is its own convoluted story, but that’s a tale for another time, as we’re focusing on soccer right now.

And, unlike the CHS boys, who switch from spring to fall, and inherit a complicated string of new foes, the Wolf girl booters get a pretty straightforward new agenda.

For one thing, they stay in the fall, as always.

Plus, the Wolf girls will play the same group of schools they’ll see in other sports, with two small exceptions.

Concrete and Darrington don’t field girls soccer teams, but the other six schools in the NWL do, making for a compact schedule.

The Wolves will face off with fellow 2B schools La Conner, Chimacum, and Friday Harbor in home-and-away set-ups, while also playing 1B Mount Vernon Christian and Orcas Island.

MVC is the defending league champ, and finished second at the 1B/2B state tourney last fall, dropping a 1-0 squeaker to Davenport in the championship game.

Before that, La Conner and Friday Harbor shared the previous seven league titles listed on the NWL web site.

La Conner won in 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017, while Friday Harbor topped the field in 2013, 2014, and 2018.

As its sits now, the Coupeville girls have a 13-game schedule, while the Wolf boys have 16 rumbles planned, so it’s entirely possible more games will pop up as we get closer to September.

Currently, the three non-conferences games come against two former North Sound Conference rivals — Sultan and CPC-Bothell, and one newbie – Eastside Prep.

There’s also the lingering question of who will be running things from the sideline.

Kyle Nelson currently coaches both girls and boys soccer at CHS, but in different seasons.

With both programs operating at the same time, as 2B boys soccer plays in the fall and not spring, it’s unknown whether he will juggle teams or whether Coupeville would add a new head coach for one of the teams.

As it stands, there are only two dates on the schedule (Sept. 15 and Oct. 27) where both CHS soccer teams play on the same day.

Both of those feature one team on the road, and one at home.

Much can change in five months, and, let’s face it, no one really knows if we will even be back to sports action by fall, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic ebbs and flows.

Thinking positively, this is what we have set for now:

 

2020 CHS girls soccer schedule
(* = league game):

Sat-Sept. 12 — @Cedar Park Christian-Bothell (3:00)
Tue-Sept. 15 — @Sultan (7:00)
Thur-Sept. 17 — Mount Vernon Christian (6:00) *
Thur-Sept. 24 — @Orcas Island (4:00) *
Tues-Sept. 29 — @Friday Harbor (4:00) *
Thur-Oct. 1 — @Mount Vernon Christian (3:30) *
Tues-Oct. 6 — La Conner (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 8 — Eastside Prep (6:00)
Tues-Oct. 13 — Chimacum (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 15 — @La Conner (4:00) *
Thur-Oct. 22 — @Chimacum (6:45) *
Tues-Oct. 27 — Friday Harbor (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 22 — Orcas Island (6:00) *

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Owen Barenburg (13) and other Coupeville High School boys soccer players will play in the fall, and not the spring, starting next school year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

OK, now stay with me on this.

With Coupeville High School slated to drop from 1A to 2B next school year, the Wolves will bounce from the 1A North Sound Conference to the Northwest 2B/1B League in the fall.

The change in classifications and league will offer new challenges to every CHS sports program, but boys soccer will likely face the biggest upheaval.

The Wolf booters are currently sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic, waiting to see if they will play a compressed spring schedule in May, or if Washington state schools (and prep sports) will be shut down for good until fall.

Of course, a return in fall is still, like everything else in the world, a maybe.

But keeping a positive outlook, if things are back up and going then, Coupeville’s boys soccer program will make the jump not only from one league and classification to another, but one season to another.

While 1A boys soccer is played in the spring, 2B schools play the sport in the fall, sharing field space with girls soccer and football.

Coupeville’s soccer programs share a head coach in Kyle Nelson. With one team in the fall and another in the spring, that’s worked fine.

Whether he would try and balance both jobs in the same season, or if a new coach will be hired for one of the teams, is unknown at this point.

What’s also unknown is how the jump will affect the roster, as the move will give CHS four boys sports in the fall, with soccer competing against football, tennis, and cross country for athletes.

When they do hit the field, the Wolf boys will have a new set of league foes, and the lineup won’t look exactly like the one most other CHS squads will face.

Five of the eight Northwest League teams — 2B schools La Conner, Friday Harbor, and Coupeville, and 1B schools Mount Vernon Christian and Orcas Island — have active boys soccer program.

That leaves Concrete, Darrington, and, apparently, Chimacum, on the sideline.

To fill the gap, the NWL schools pick up four schools from the 1B Northwest League (similar name, different conference) to make a patchwork nine-team boys soccer league.

Having six of nine teams be 1B is not that big of a deal, though, since 2B and 1B are compressed together when it comes to the state tournament.

The 1B schools from the outlying league are Lopez, Grace Academy from Marysville, Providence Classical Christian from Bothell, and Cedar Park Christian-Mountlake Terrace.

While it’s part of a group of affiliated private schools, CPC-MTL is not the same as CPC-Bothell, which has been one of Coupeville’s rivals in the North Sound Conference.

So, who’s the team(s) to beat?

Based on last season, it’s Orcas Island, which won its second-straight league crown, and league runner-up Friday Harbor. Both teams fell in the first round at state in fall 2019.

But don’t count out Providence, which captured the conference title in 2017.

Or Mount Vernon Christian, which won five-straight titles between 2012-2016, with 2012 being the farthest back the NWL web site has records.

The MVC Hurricanes finished in the top two every year between 2012 and 2018, until “crashing” to a 6-6 mark last fall.

So, while realizing there still might be tweaks between now and September, an early look at what could play out in the fall:

 

2020 CHS boys soccer schedule (Fall)
(* = league game):

Tues-Sept. 8 — Friday Harbor (6:00) *
Thur-Sept. 10 — @Providence Classical Christian (3:30) *
Fri-Sept. 11 — La Conner (6:00) *
Tues-Sept. 15 — Mount Vernon Christian (6:00) *
Fri-Sept. 18 — @Orcas Island (3:00) *
Tues-Sept. 22 — Cedar Park Christian-MLT (6:00) *
Mon-Sept. 28 — Grace Academy (6:00) *
Wed-Sept. 30 — Lopez (6:00) *
Tues-Oct. 6 — @Friday Harbor (4:30) *
Fri-Oct. 9 — @La Conner (4:00) *
Mon-Oct. 12 — @Mount Vernon Christian (4:00) *
Wed-Oct. 14 — Orcas Island (6:00) *
Fri-Oct. 16 — @Cedar Park Christian-MTL (4:15) *
Tues-Oct. 20 — Providence Classical Christian (6:00) *
Fri-Oct. 23 — @Grace Academy (3:30) *
Tues-Oct. 27 — @Lopez (3:00) *

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Coupeville High School spikers (l to r) Kylie Chernikoff, Maddie Vondrak, and Chelsea Prescott will be seniors this fall. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything is in flux, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look into the possible future.

If Washington state high schools return to athletic competition by the fall, we know Coupeville is moving from the 1A North Sound Conference to the Northwest 2B/1B League.

As the Wolves drop down a classification to 2B for at least the next four years, they’ll go from having the smallest student body in their league to the largest.

With new league foes, there will be new challenges, and none comes bigger than La Conner volleyball.

The Braves have won back-to-back state 2B titles, and haven’t lost a league match in at least nine years.

I say “at least” because I don’t really know the answer to that question, though I am looking.

The Northwest League site only has records back through 2011, and the La Conner spikers are 79-0 in conference play between 2011-2019.

I’ve been in contact with Braves coach Suzanne Marble, and she said she would try and get back to me at some point with a definite answer.

Though, as she said with a laugh, “I don’t want you to jinx us!”

No matter what number the streak sits at, La Conner undoubtedly is the team every other 2B volleyball program is chasing.

Fall schedules for most of Coupeville’s sports teams have been quietly landing online in recent days. I’ve already published football, and soccer is on its way, while cross country and tennis are not yet set.

Looking at the volleyball sked, it shows all eight Northwest Conference schools playing the sport, though the setup for games is a bit staggered.

Coupeville will play three matches apiece against the other 2B schools — La Conner, Friday Harbor, and Chimacum, which makes the jump from the Olympic League as it also drops from 1A to 2B.

Meanwhile, the Wolves will take to the court just once against the 1B schools — Concrete, Darrington, Orcas Island, and Mount Vernon Christian.

The schedule as it currently sits, some five months-plus ahead of the first match, has 14 bouts, with 13 of them being conference tilts.

The lone non-league matchup is against our next-door neighbor, South Whidbey, keeping alive the tradition of the Wolves and Falcons lacing up their shoes and having at it in a bid for Island supremacy.

As I mentioned, the first match isn’t until mid-September, and even that will depend on how the coronavirus pandemic has played out.

There may be tweaks, and, if I’m still doing this when the time comes, I’ll certainly re-post the schedule in late summer/early fall.

But, for now, it gives everyone something to talk about.

 

2020 CHS volleyball schedule
(* = league game):

Mon-Sept. 14 — South Whidbey (7:00)
Tues-Sept. 15 — @Concrete (6:30) *
Thur-Sept. 17 — Mount Vernon Christian (7:00) *
Tues-Sept. 22 — Darrington (7:00) *
Thur-Sept. 24 — @Orcas Island (6:30) *
Tues-Sept. 29 — @Friday Harbor (6:30) *
Thur-Oct. 1 — @Chimacum (6:15) *
Tues-Oct. 6 — La Conner (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 8 — Friday Harbor (7:00) *
Tues-Oct. 13 — Chimacum (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 15 — @La Conner (6:30) *
Tues-Oct. 20 — @Friday Harbor (6:30) *
Thur-Oct. 22 — @Chimacum (6:15) *
Tues-Oct. 27 — La Conner (7:00) *

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