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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Sports Preview’

Senior Mckenna Somes is a key returning player for the Coupeville High School softball squad. (Jackie Saia photos)

How do you follow up perfection?

Hopefully with a lot more of the same.

At least that’s the goal for the Coupeville High School softball program, which is coming off a 12-0 run during a pandemic-shortened 2021 season.

“Big expectations for this season!” said Wolf coach Kevin McGranahan.

“Our goals are to win the league, be the number one seed for districts, and go to state and cause a whole lot of havoc once there.”

The last time any softball teams had a chance to advance to the big dance, way back in 2019, that’s exactly what Coupeville did – cause some havoc.

Playing in the 1A classification at the time, the Wolves, with freshman hurler Izzy Wells firing BB’s from the pitcher’s circle, thrashed highly rated Deer Park and came within a play of upending Cle Elum.

That capped a three-games-in-one-day jaunt which kicked off with a game against eventual state champ Montesano.

Coupeville was primed for more, and then, whammo, pandemic city.

A 2020 season completely erased by Covid, then a 2021 one chopped down to just league contests, with no playoffs.

But as Wells and hard-hitting Audrianna Shaw — the other remaining member of the 2019 state tourney team — take the field for their senior season, things are looking up.

Coupeville has a full 20-game regular-season schedule which includes non-conference matchups with bigger schools such as Lynden Christian and South Whidbey.

Plus, the promise of the postseason is a thing again.

“The girls need this,” McGranahan said. “I hope that we can play a normal season and playoffs and they can finally put this behind them.”

Wells and Shaw are joined by returning players such as senior Mckenna Somes and juniors Allie and Maya Lucero.

“They will anchor our defense and provide the offensive spark we need,” McGranahan said.

Allie Lucero is a weapon on both offense and defense.

Coupeville has a deep roster, with a strong pack of nine freshmen making the jump to high school ball after finishing their little league careers with a fourth-place finish at the state tournament.

Those young Wolves, players like Taylor Brotemarkle, Madison McMillan, and Savina Wells, can contribute today and tomorrow.

“We have 22 girls out this season and every one of them are essential to the program and getting us to our goals,” McGranahan said.

“The freshmen will be key to carry the program into the future seasons and will have big moments this season as well.

While the Wolves crushed their way through the Northwest 2B/1B League last season, outscoring foes 154-41 across those 12 wins, McGranahan takes nothing for granted.

In particular, he has his eye on Friday Harbor, which will be young but also is likely to “be our toughest test in the league.”

Whether the foes hail from the NWL or not, McGranahan and his players will approach each game with an eye on always getting better.

“We need to work on our softball IQ,” he said. “We are a young team and need to get softball smart.

“Great athletes — just need to harness the softball knowledge.”

Coupeville has a power pitcher, strong hitters, steady defenders, and a few secrets, as McGranahan is keeping some things close to the vest.

Asked about his team’s best points, the veteran coach just smiled.

“Everyone will see our strengths soon enough. Not gonna give out that info,” he said with a laugh, before going right back to work.

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Hawthorne Wolfe and fellow seniors are ready to dominate the diamond. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Will Thayer may need to pace himself.

The Coupeville High School baseball guru is entering his third season at the school but will finally be getting his first crack at a full schedule.

Thayer’s first job at CHS — as an assistant coach with Wolf softball — evaporated when all spring sports were erased by the pandemic.

Last year, he stepped into a new role atop the school’s baseball program, but schools only played against league rivals, with no chance of advancing to playoffs.

Toss in some cancellations, and Thayer and Co. had to make do with a 10-game schedule, one in which they went 7-3 to finish second in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

But this spring, hope abounds, with Wolf baseball eyeing a 20-game regular season campaign, and the postseason the prize at the end of the road.

Add in the end of mask mandates and Covid testing for prep athletes, and the mood is joyful.

“I think the biggest thing for these players was no notes and no masks seemed to be what they were the happiest about on the first day of practice,” Thayer said.

“Playing a full 20 games will be awesome and having something to play for like district titles and playoffs,” he added. “Playing a normal schedule will be a blessing to me.”

Only one team beat Coupeville last season, and the Wolves are chomping for some revenge.

“Friday Harbor is going to stand in our way, and, if we come together, we should be able to take the title away from them,” Thayer said.

Coupeville’s coaches and players have a list of items to accomplish, from being league and district champs, to returning to the state tournament, and “continuing to build the program.”

Thayer only lost one player to graduation and returns a roster which offers “lots of senior leadership.”

“I think pitching and defense will be our strength this year,” he said.

Cody Roberts headlines Coupeville’s pitching staff. (Morgan White photo)

Now the Wolves want to add some pop when batting.

“Just becoming more consistent at the plate,” Thayer said. “We have lots of great athletes; if they become consistent hitters, we will be able to do some special things this year.”

Seniors Cody Roberts (P, OF), Hawthorne Wolfe (P, OF), Xavier Murdy (P, C, INF), and Sage Sharp (UTL) lead the returnees, and are joined by juniors Scott Hilborn (P, SS) and Jonathan Valenzuela (P, 3B) and sophomore Peyton Caveness (1B).

Senior Caleb Meyer, a Little League star back in the day, returns to Coupeville for his final season, while junior Alex Murdy joins his brother on the diamond with soccer having moved from spring to fall.

And the cupboard won’t be bare when this year’s deep senior class departs, as the Wolves have a solid group of freshmen and eighth graders joining the program.

“I’m excited about young talent like Chase Anderson, Camden Glover, Landon Roberts, and Jack and Johnny Porter,” Thayer said.

Scott Hilborn is a vacuum at shortstop. (Morgan White photo)

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After the pandemic stole away the 2020 season, Catherine Lhamon is one of the few Coupeville High School track stars with prior experience. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

From young guns to old pros.

Thanks to the pandemic, the last time Coupeville High School track and field athletes competed was nearly two years ago.

Way back on May 25, 2019, as the state tournament wrapped up, Ja’Kenya Hoskins and Logan Martin were freshmen.

Now, after a lost spring and a long wait, the duo are juniors and have gone from supporting crew to frontline stars.

Hoskins is the only active Wolf track athlete to have a state meet medal — she was part of a 4 x 200 relay squad which finished 3rd in Cheney in ’19.

Now, with all of her former relay mates having graduated, she’s likely to be running sprints and doing jumps, said longtime CHS track guru Randy King.

Ja’Kenya is back and eager to begin competing again!”

Martin, who spent many of the 650 days between track seasons working on his skills, is primed to have a breakout as a thrower.

Older brother Dalton, who won four state meet medals during his CHS days, holds the school discus record.

Now lil’ bro is coming for big bro’s best marks.

Logan has worked both last spring and this fall and winter to improve his throws, and looks destined to do extremely well,” King said.

“The discus is jumping out of his hand and he appears to have mastered a new technique in the shot put,” he added. “I expect his discus throws to have improved by over 30 feet since his freshman year.”

Logan Martin is coming for all of older brother Dalton’s throwing records.

Hoskins and Martin lead a squad which has 24 athletes as it preps for its debut in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

In this pared-down season, Coupeville is set to host the season-opening meet March 4, and the season-closing rumble April 3.

Other returning athletes include Megan Behan and Aurora Cernick in the throwing events, and cross country state meet vet Catherine Lhamon in the distance races.

On the boys side of things, the move from 1A to 2B pushes soccer from spring to fall, allowing Wolf booters to join the track squad.

That has netted the squad at least three cross country-hardened runners in Sam Wynn, Mitchell Hall, and Aiden Wilson.

“We are excited to have them out,” King said. “Kudos to Coach (Elizabeth) Bitting and Coach (Jon) Gabelein for their work with our distance runners this school year.

“They have been training for quite a while and are hitting the track season “in stride”!”

With the missed season, a fair amount of the team is made up of newcomers, some of whom intended to compete last spring before COVID shut down Washington state schools.

On the girls side, Maylin Steele (jumps and javelin), Erica McGrath (javelin), Camryn Clark (hurdles and sprints), and Cristine McGrath (jumps and hurdles) are all brand new to high school track.

The most-promising youngster may be basketball brawler Carolyn Lhamon, a sophomore who was a top-notch track performer in middle school.

Carolyn looks great in the shot put for us, and can be counted on to give a gutsy performance in the 400-meter run,” King said.

Freshman Tate Wyman and Josh Guay, sophomore Dominic Coffman, Alex Murdy, and Reiley Araceley, and senior Ben Smith are all expected to have impact for the boys team, as well.

During this pandemic spring, Coupeville will compete against league mates, and won’t have a chance to attend any invitationals or large meets as in years past.

That means the Wolves will mainly vie with La Conner, Concrete, Mount Vernon Christian, and Friday Harbor.

Darrington doesn’t field a track team, while Orcas Island is skipping spring sports and waiting until its students are back in class before competing.

MVC track, especially on the boys side of things, is a state-title-winning powerhouse in 1B, while La Conner is always tough.

But for King, who retired as a teacher last year but stayed on as the school’s longest-tenured coach, the chance to get back out to the track oval is about what his athletes can accomplish, not who they have to face.

“They have been a fun group to work with!,” he said. “Our team is young, so it will be great to see how our season develops.”

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After COVID-19 stole a season from him, Hawthorne Wolfe returns to the baseball diamond. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

New coach, new league, new schedule.

Everything is a little different for the Coupeville High School baseball squad as it gets ready for its first games since 2019.

The pandemic erased prep sports last spring, then coach Chris Smith departed Whidbey Island after the graduation of his youngest child.

Now, Will Thayer steps into the dugout as the head man and his first Wolf team is scheduled to play a pared-down, conference-only slate of games.

That will give Coupeville a strong introduction to their new foes, at least, as CHS moves from 1A to 2B, returning to its old stomping grounds in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

While the schedule seems to shift each day, as of Thursday the Wolves are set to play fellow 2B schools Friday Harbor (4) and La Conner (3) the most, with a single game against 1B rivals Darrington, Mount Vernon Christian, and Concrete.

Orcas Island (1B) opted not to play spring sports as long as its students were not back in class, while Chimacum (2B) is slated to join the NWL for the 2021-2022 school year.

Having a chance to go toe-to-toe with Friday Harbor should give Thayer and his crew a solid idea of where they fit in the new hierarchy.

“Perennial power in this league seems to be Friday Harbor; they are a very well-coached team and consistently at the top of their league,” Thayer said. “This is our first year in this league and we will have to learn the teams on the fly.

“It is kind of nice being a first-year coach in a new league so I can learn with the team,” he added. “We will be able to measure ourselves against our league for the first time together.”

With the unexpected gap year, the Wolf roster has seen a fairly large turnover.

Of the 15 players listed on the roster posted on the league web site, only four have ever played in a CHS baseball game — senior Daniel Olson and juniors Hawthorne Wolfe, Cody Roberts, and Sage Sharp.

Olson and Roberts provide a one-two combo at the top of the pitching staff, while Wolfe is back to hit leadoff and prowl center field.

Cody Roberts joins Daniel Olson at the top of Coupeville’s pitching rotation. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

Three sort-of newcomers, all with plenty of hardball experience, are expected to have immediate impacts, as well.

Xavier Murdy, a junior, joins Olson and Wolfe as a team captain, while sophomores Scott Hilborn and Jonathan Valenzuela will start at shortstop and third base, respectively.

“We are anchored on the left side of our infield,” Thayer said. “This will be their first year of high school baseball and they have proven themselves ready to rise to the occasion and lead us in to the future.”

Murdy spent his freshman year on the soccer pitch, but with the move from 1A to 2B, boys soccer slides from spring to fall.

Rounding out the preseason roster are junior Miles Davidson, sophomore Coen Killian, and a pack of freshmen — Nathan Ginnings, Cole White, Nick Guay, Andrew Williams, Seth Woollet, and Zane Oldenstadt.

It’s a group which will have to learn on the fly.

“Just coming together as a team, as we haven’t had much time to bond as a tight group; but every practice we become a tighter group,” Thayer said.

“We are learning from each other as we go in a very short time.”

However the lineup eventually breaks down, Thayer is excited to get on the field.

“Our goal for this season is to compete for a league title,” he said. “Since there is no state tournament this year, our team goal is league title, and let everyone know that we are a state-worthy team next season.

“We are a very young team so our future is very exciting, and I believe we will be in contention for league and state for the foreseeable future.”

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After a year off due to COVID-19, Izzy Wells and Co. are back to reclaim the diamond. (Karen Carlson photo)

It’s been a long time coming.

Coupeville High School softball players are back on the field and ready to play games again for the first time since the 2019 state tournament.

The COVID-19 shutdown cost the Wolves the 2020 season and prevented four-year players such as Emma Mathusek and Scout Smith from experiencing their senior season.

But, while that hurts, the focus when players opened practice Monday was a positive one, said CHS coach Kevin McGranahan.

“I have 22 girls as of today and ALL of them have been practicing when we could throughout the last year,” he said. “They have all stuck by the program and are anxious to get the season going.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” McGranahan added.

“I am always proud of my teams, but this particular set of girls have endured through the last year and finally get to showoff a little bit.”

Leading the way will be five players from that 2019 team, which won a North Sound Conference title, finished second at districts, then advanced to state for the third time in program history.

Seniors Chelsea Prescott, Mollie Bailey, and Coral Caveness are joined by juniors Izzy Wells and Audrianna Shaw.

Wells was Coupeville’s #1 pitcher as a freshman, while Prescott has been one of her team’s most-dangerous hitters since day one of her own 9th grade season.

Bailey held down third base for the 2019 state team, and also has plenty of experience as a catcher, while Caveness and Shaw played multiple positions.

The five-pack are key as the Wolves move into their home in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

“Gonna need all of them to step up and lead the younger players that have never seen varsity time due to COVID,” McGranahan said.

Coral Caveness, one of three Coupeville seniors, last played at the 2019 state tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Among key newcomers for the Wolves are a group of “redshirt freshmen” — sophomores who never got to play last spring and are “talented, but very inexperienced at this level.”

These include Gwen Gustafson (pitcher/centerfield), Jill Prince (infield), and the deadly duo of Allie and Maya Lucero (infield).

Outfielder Lacy McCraw-Shirron, who transferred to Coupeville before last season, but never got on the field, is also expected to contribute.

Regardless of which of the 22 players get on the field, and in what positions, McGranahan will be there to preach hard work and improvement.

“We have strong leaders in our seniors, and our defense will be pretty solid with a scrappy offense,” he said. “(But we need to work on) softball IQ – we have to get better with our softball knowledge of the game and strategies.

“This is only because we are getting so young and inexperienced due to COVID; not a knock on the girls at all,” McGranahan added. “They just have to be able to learn quickly.”

Along with the time off, Coupeville is making the transition from 1A to 2B, with a new group of foes.

With schools playing shortened seasons as they return from the pandemic shutdown, the Wolves are scheduled for 12 games, all against league opponents.

They’ll play five games against fellow 2B schools La Conner (3) and Friday Harbor (2), with seven against 1B foes Orcas Island (3), Darrington (2), and Concrete (2).

Mount Vernon Christian (1B) doesn’t play softball, while Chimacum (2B) delayed its move to the NWL until the 2021-2022 school year.

There won’t be any playoffs this season, with the hope that things will be back to “normal” in the spring of 2022.

In particular, McGranahan, who enjoys having his team “play up,” is looking forward to when CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith can return to adding extra games to the schedule.

“I hope in future seasons we can play the 1A schools out of conference to challenge our girls, because they respond to a challenge.”

Which doesn’t mean the Wolves aren’t swinging for the fences this time out.

“Our goals are to win the league and develop the younger talent that lost a very big developmental year last season,” McGranahan said.

“Friday Harbor will be our biggest challenge from what I can tell,” he added. “They were getting pretty good before COVID, so I expect them to be our new rival.

“But with everyone having a year off, anyone could have gotten better.”

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