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   Coupeville’s days as a tennis power will likely take a hit when the Olympic League combines 1A and 2A programs in the sport next school year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The path to an Olympic League tennis title has always gone through Coupeville.

Starting next school year, however, that path is going to get a lot rockier.

The Wolf boys have won two crowns in four seasons since joining the newly-created 1A division of the league in 2014, while the CHS girls are a perfect 3-for-3 heading into next spring.

In fact, the Coupeville girls have never lost a match to rivals Klahowya and Chimacum/Port Townsend, and will carry a 15-0 mark in league tilts onto the court in 2018.

While the pursuit of title #4 will remain the same, the chase for title #5 may take a substantial detour.

When the 2018-2019 school year arrives, the 1A division of the Olympic League will merge with the 2A side of things for tennis, creating a 10-team conference for the sport.

That means just one league champ, and not the current two.

The new format only covers the regular season, as 1A and 2A schools will go their own way once the postseason arrives.

All other sports will remain separated between 1A and 2A.

While Coupeville has been playing most of the Olympic League’s 2A schools in non-conference tennis matches, the new format means they would have to upend much-larger schools to retain their title-winning ways.

Instead of just thumping on the Eagles and Cowboys, the Wolves will have to also vie with North Kitsap, Sequim, North Mason, Olympic, Kingston, Bremerton and Port Angeles.

Those schools have student bodies of 527-876 students, which means Coupeville (227 in the last classification count) will experience some deja vu, harkening back to its former days competing in the 1A/2A Cascade Conference.

In the new format North Kitsap (810 students) will overwhelmingly be the team to beat.

On the boys side the Vikings are currently operating on a 41-match winning streak, dating back to a loss to Sequim in Oct. 2014.

The NK girls have lost more recently, but that’s not a common occurrence, as they are still a very-tidy 51-3 over the past four seasons.

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   Senior Lauren Rose had 13 assists and five aces Tuesday as first-place Coupeville crushed Chimacum. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Six players firing as one.

When they’re on, they’re on.

The Coupeville High School varsity volleyball squad has played seven regular-season matches this year, and six times they have left the court with a straight-sets win.

Tuesday was more of the same, as the Wolves overpowered visiting Chimacum in every aspect of the game, cruising to a 25-17, 25-9, 25-18 win which cemented Coupeville’s status as the front-runner in the Olympic League.

Now 4-0 in conference play, 6-1 overall, CHS sits a game-and-a-half up on Klahowya (2-1, 3-5), while Chimacum (1-3, 1-5) and Port Townsend (0-3, 1-6) bring up the rear.

The Wolves, who are chasing back-to-back league titles, have a two-week gap before any more league matches.

They’ll fill the time by facing off with a pair of 2A schools — Port Angeles on the road Oct. 5 and Sequim at home Oct. 10 — before playing their final five league matches between Oct. 17-28.

If Coupeville can keep things clicking at their current levels, or take it up a notch or two, it seems primed for a strong postseason run.

At their best, the Wolves are a lethal team from the service stripe, with two strong setters (Lauren Rose and Ashley Menges) setting up a squad of kill-happy snipers.

What few points Chimacum got Tuesday came more from Coupeville’s occasional over-eagerness to destroy the ball than anything the Cowboys were able to create.

The lone exception was junior outside hitter Renee Woods, who peppered the Wolves with several strong runs at the service line.

Coupeville countered with a team-wide ace explosion, raining down 22 of the beauties.

High-impact servers Hope Lodell and Payton Aparicio lashed six apiece, while knuckleballer Rose, who has never missed a serve in her entire life, added another five.

The Wolves never trailed for a single second in the match, running out to large leads in every set, and it started with their service game.

Take the first set, where Rose opened the night with a run of five straight points.

The first came on an emphatic stuff from a hyped-up Mikayla Elfrank, which sent a bolt of energy through the Wolf football team which had gathered to cheer on their classmates.

That was closely followed by Lodell cranking a winner while stuck in the middle of the court, and the winners just kept coming.

Numerous Wolves jumped into the fray in the early going, and they all seemed to have the golden touch.

Whether it was Katrina McGranahan with a tip which froze two Cowboys in place, Kyla Briscoe with a slicing kill that carved off a rival’s kneecap, or Emma Smith exploding a winner off the back line, if it came from Wolf fingertips, it was deadly and delightful.

Lodell closed the set with an eight-point run at the line, throwing herself skyward to unleash a series of crippling serves which left the increasingly frustrated Cowboys clawing helplessly at air as the ball skidded by their arms.

It wasn’t going to get any better from there for Chimacum, a competent but, at least on this night, not very inspired squad.

Coupeville, on the other hand, continually found new ways to delight its fans.

Super sophomore Scout Smith reached behind her head while airborne, corralled a ball, then flicked it forward for a surprise winner, while Emma Smith dipped to the floor to pull off a miracle save on a ball off the net.

Somehow keeping the rally alive, Emma Smith gave Aparicio time to arrive behind her with a full head of steam built up, and the senior sharpshooter ended the point with a bang, slugging the crud out of the ball.

While the CHS varsity has a senior-heavy roster, the young guns had their moment to shine, as well.

Sophomore Maya Toomey-Stout ran off nine straight points on her serve, with her play glistening as brightly as her new shoes, while freshman Chelsea Prescott made her varsity debut in the second set.

The Wolves capped things with another burst of creativity in the final set, mixing in the power of Briscoe and Elfrank, who were twin titans of terror, with a tip for a winner on which Emma Smith seemed to defy the laws of gravity.

Going airborne, the elegant warrior hung motionless for a lifetime, then, right before having to return to the surly confines of Earth, used a couple of graceful finger-tips to direct a wayward ball one way while the Cowboy defense went the other.

The match, which had been over for a long time prior, officially ended on yet another blow off the fist of Briscoe, who was one of five Wolves to collect four or more kills on the night.

McGranahan (5), Elfrank (5), Aparicio (4), Briscoe (4) and Scout Smith (4) took full advantage of the balls set up for them by Rose (13 assists) and Menges (12), who were on top of their game as a two-headed setter supreme.

Lodell and Aparicio paced the Wolves with three digs apiece. Though, to be honest, Coupeville spent very little time having to deal with any full-scale Chimacum attacks.

While there is always room for improvement, CHS coach Cory Whitmore wore a relaxed smile as he assessed his team’s performance.

“I felt like we had moments of brilliance,” he said. “We built momentum and finished strongly.

“I especially liked that when I called timeouts, they not only made the fixes we needed to, but they anticipated what I was going to say and were already prepared to correct what needed to be corrected.”

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   Sage Renninger set up the winning goal in a 3-2 thriller Tuesday night. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Playoff ticket? Punched.

While the postseason brackets haven’t been released yet, three teams have advanced out of the 1A Olympic League every year the conference has been active.

If that stays true, and there seems to be no reason it won’t, the Coupeville High School girls soccer squad has clinched one of those slots.

Riding a late goal from breakout freshman star Genna Wright, the Wolves escaped with a nail-biting 3-2 win over visiting Chimacum Tuesday night.

The victory lifts CHS to 4-1 in league play, 6-4 overall and pulls it within a half game of league leader Klahowya (4-0, 9-0).

Port Townsend (1-3, 2-6) and Chimacum (0-5, 0-6) round out the standings, and, with the loss, the Cowboys can’t finish ahead of Coupeville.

If both teams were to take opposite paths and somehow end up tied at 4-5 in league play at the end of the season, the Wolves would own a tiebreaker for winning the season series.

While Tuesday’s game wasn’t a romp like the first time the schools played — back then Coupeville strolled to a 7-2 win — it showcased the Wolves at their gritty best.

Kalia Littlejohn found the back of the net early in the game to stake CHS to a lead, but the plucky Cowboys responded with a pair of goals to shake things up.

“After that we settled down and got our defense in order,” Coupeville coach Kyle Nelson said.

Littlejohn banged home her 15th goal of the season midway through the first half to knot the game at two, and that’s where it stayed for quite some time.

Coupeville had numerous second-half opportunities, but the Cowboys escaped time and again, until Sage Renninger broke the defense.

The senior captain rifled a “well-taken corner kick” and put it on Wright’s toe, allowing the young sharpshooter to flick it past the net-minder with “a great finish.”

It was Wright’s eighth score of the season, leaving her just two shy of the team single-season record for goals by a freshman.

That mark of ten goals was set two years ago by none other than Littlejohn.

Now midway through her junior season, Kalia’s two-goal night Tuesday pulls her to 33 career goals, two back of older sister Mia, who scored 35 from 2014-2016.

With the win, the Wolves, who have back-to-back non-league tilts against 2A schools Port Angeles and Sequim up next on the schedule, improved to 3-1 in one-goal games this season.

While he might have preferred another romp, a win is a win, especially when it comes against a rival, something Nelson could appreciate.

“Another league victory, so it was a good night, even if it was close,” he said.

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   Hope Lodell, here backed up by Maya Toomey-Stout, played strongly Thursday as Coupeville crushed Port Townsend. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Get in their way, get steamrolled.

Picking up steam with every match, the Coupeville High School volleyball squad capped a big week Thursday with another straight-sets win over a key conference rival.

Crunching host Port Townsend 25-17, 25-16, 25-10, the Wolves improved to 3-0 in Olympic League play and sit alone atop the standings.

The defending league champs are 3-0 after their first swing through conference play, 5-1 overall.

Klahowya (2-1), Chimacum (1-2), who CHS hosts Tuesday in a rare home match, and Port Townsend (0-3) round out the standings.

Thursday, as it often is, the focus for Coupeville was on exploiting its strength at the service stripe.

The Wolves ripped off 13 aces as a team, with Hope “The Surgeon” Lodell carving up the RedHawks for four.

She was backed up by Lauren Rose, who calmly dropped in three gems, while pretty much every Wolf was spot-on when putting the ball in play.

And when the service game didn’t quite click, CHS found other ways to snatch points.

“I was very pleased with our hitting efficiency today and execution of a clean game plan,” said Wolf coach Cory Whitmore. ‘We pushed ourselves on the service line and at times it paid off and others we let some serves get away from us.

“But we commanded the passing line and dug the ball really calmly and accurately, allowing our setters to deliver a great ball to an array of hitters,” he added. “I thought we played with focus and at times, big energy.”

Kyla Briscoe delivered her best performance of the season up front, lashing a team-high nine kills, while Mikayla Elfrank chipped in with six and Katrina McGranahan delivered five.

Rose was the linchpin all night, doling out a season-high 21 assists.

Ashley Menges backed her up with six set-ups, with Payton Aparicio (14) and Lodell (12) Coupeville’s go-to women when it was time for a dig.

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   Katrina McGranahan had six kills and four service aces Tuesday as CHS romped to a win in its league opener. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Brutally efficient.

Attacking from the moment it hopped off the ferry to the moment it clambered back on Tuesday, the Coupeville High School volleyball squad looked very much like the unit that swept to a league crown last season.

Decimating host Chimacum in straight sets, the Wolves ran their season record to 2-0, while grabbing a huge win in their Olympic League opener.

Key to the 25-9, 25-11, 25-4 romp were keywords like aggressiveness and consistency, something every coach wants to see.

“Very happy with our consistent play today,” CHS spiker guru Cory Whitmore said. “Playing our speed and back to aggressive serving and attacking.”

Once the ball was in play, every Wolf on the floor chipped in with solid, often inspired play.

“The setters did a great job of distributing the ball,” Whitmore said. “But our passers provided great first ball contacts to work with.”

Sophomore Maya Toomey-Stout led Coupeville at the service stripe, pounding home five aces, while three of her veteran teammates — Payton Aparicio, Lauren Rose and Katrina McGranahan — chipped in with four apiece.

Rose collected 11 assists, sharing set-up duties with Ashley Menges (six assists), while McGranahan (six kills) and Aparicio (four kills) were the primary beneficiaries.

Coupeville, which doesn’t play its first home match until Sept. 26, is off to Yakima for the SunDome Volleyball Festival Friday, an all-day event which pits 32 schools drawn from 1B, 2B, 1A and 2A.

The tourney, which is played on the same courts where the 1A state tourney is held, will give the Wolves a feel of what it would be like to play in the big show.

CHS advanced to state four straight years from 2001-2004, winning at least one match every time, but hasn’t been back since, a streak this year’s senior-led squad wants to break.

Young guns sweep:

Coupeville swept to straight-sets wins in both JV and C-Team action, as well.

“The JV just cruised. They carried on where they left off from this weekend (at the South Whidbey Invite) and just dominated both sets,” said Wolf JV coach Chris Smith. “After facing varsity competition all weekend the JV was geared up and ready to play at a different level.

“They were playing well as a team and set the tone from the service line.”

The C-Team, comprised of freshmen, saw action against a rival for the first time this season.

“The nerves were high with the ‘C’ team, but once they settled down they cruised,” Smith said.

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