Posts Tagged ‘state tournament’

   Wolf senior Allison Wenzel picked up a ton of new swag during her trip to the state volleyball tourney. (Susan Wenzel photo)

Another step on the ladder to success.

As Cory Whitmore goes about the business of building a volleyball dynasty in Coupeville, the second-year coach has guided the Wolves to new heights.

Back-to-back Olympic League titles, with CHS winning all 27 sets in conference play this season, and year #2 capped by a trip to the 1A state tourney.

The visit to Yakima, in which the Wolves found themselves trapped in the “Group of Death,” was Coupeville’s first trip to the big dance since 2004.

And, while CHS fell Friday to sixth-ranked and undefeated Castle Rock, and defending state champ Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), Whitmore, once he recovered from the emotionally-draining adventure, came away pleased.

“We are very happy to have had this great experience to cap off a fun season with a fantastic group of student/athletes,” he said. “They worked extremely hard to get to this point and we are very fortunate to have took the season to the last possible week.”

Coupeville closed the season at 13-5, tying the ’04 squad for the most wins in a single season.

Castle Rock:

The Rockets, who split four matches on their way to taking home a 6th place trophy, made off with a 25-8, 23-25, 25-8, 25-9 win.

One of Coupeville’s biggest strengths this season ended up backfiring a bit on them, as its service game wilted a bit under pressure.

“In all but the second set, our serving was a struggle,” Whitmore said. “We were attempting to be too aggressive and so lost our consistency.”

That second set, though, was the high-water mark for the Wolves in the tourney.

“We were able to find their weak points, which kept their offense out of sync and we we able to turn their offense into ours,” Whitmore said.

Coupeville’s back row defense, led by Hope Lodell and Payton Aparicio, who both scraped the floor for 13 digs apiece, was a particular standout.

Emma Smith paced the Wolves at the net with four kills, while Kyla Briscoe, Mikayla Elfrank and Aparicio notched two apiece.

The Wolves, who are normally an ace-firing beast at the service stripe, never truly got untracked, with Aparicio and Ashley Menges each hitting on two.

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls):

The Eagles came into the tourney flying high – defending champs, undefeated (having not dropped a single set) and top-ranked, only to crash to the court hard Friday afternoon.

Picked apart by fourth-ranked King’s, which would go on to win its third state title and first since 2009, Lakeside was not happy entering the day’s second match.

Coupeville felt the full brunt of that anger.

The final score was 25-12, 25-10, 25-16, though the Wolves put up a decent fight.

“In all three sets we came out flat but competed hard,” Whitmore said. “We served much more consistently than versus Castle Rock, allowing our defense to slow down their very strong and balanced offense.”

Elfrank smoked three kills, with Smith, Katrina McGranahan and Aparicio each recording two.

Menges connected on three service aces, with Coupeville’s back row players spreading out the digs.

Lodell (7), Aparicio (7), Menges (6), Lauren Rose (5) and Briscoe (4) all chipped in to a solid group effort.

In the four years of the 1A Olympic League, the Wolf spikers have jumped from one win to six to 11 to 13.

As Whitmore looks ahead to his third season at the helm (never too early to plan), he knows losing seven seniors hurts.

But having a solid base of younger varsity stars — current juniors Emma Smith and Menges, as well as sophomores Scout Smith and Maya-Toomey-Stout and freshman Chelsea Prescott — plus a JV squad which went 12-1, bodes well for the future.

“We set a goal to make it to state and with the milestone achieved, this group can hold their heads up high, knowing that they left all they had out there on the court through four-plus years of hard work and dedication,” Whitmore said.

“I’m so proud of what this group of seniors have accomplished in their time with Coupeville volleyball,” he added. “And very much look forward to next season with a group looking to follow their legacy.”

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   Hope Lodell (1), here backed by junior Ashley Menges, is one of seven seniors who led CHS volleyball to its first state berth in 13 years. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

   Young fans sent the Wolves off to Yakima in style Thursday. (Susan Wenzel photo)

   Junior Emma Smith made it to state in her third season as a varsity player. (Wenzel photo)

   Sophomores (l to r) Emma Mathusek, Maya Toomey-Stout and Scout Smith are planning repeat trips to Eastern Washington. (Charlotte Young photo)

   Chelsea Prescott was the lone freshman to see varsity action this year. (Wenzel photo)

   Allison Wenzel, one of Coupeville’s seniors, the Magnificent Seven. (Susan Wenzel photo)

   Wenzel’s compatriots are (l to r), manager Kayla Rose, Lodell, Katrina McGranahan, Kyla Briscoe, Payton Aparicio, Lauren Rose and, in front, Mikayla Elfrank. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

From also-ran to powerhouse.

The seven Coupeville High School seniors who capped their volleyball careers Friday at the 1A state tourney in Yakima are responsible for an amazing turnaround.

While the Wolves couldn’t escape from an astonishingly-tough draw which pitted them against three of the state’s top six teams in the “Group of Death,” the spikers finished off their school’s best run in 13 years.

Coupeville took a set from undefeated, sixth-ranked Castle Rock in its opener, before falling 25-8, 22-25, 25-8, 25-9.

The Wolves then found themselves face-to-face with #1 Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), the defending state champs, who hadn’t lost a set all year until being upended by #4 King’s.

The Eastern Washington juggernaut stayed alive with a 25-12, 25-10, 25-16 win, ending Coupeville’s season at 13-5.

Also headed home from Yakima is fellow Island squad South Whidbey, which lost to Charles Wright Academy and Naches Valley.

King’s plays Lynden Christian in one semifinal Saturday, while Cascade (Leavenworth) meets Chelan, which rallied from down two sets to one to CWA.

While the Wolves will not be hanging a state banner this year, their season stands with the best in program history.

The 13 wins ties the 2004 squad, the last to make it to state, for the most in a single season by a CHS spiker unit.

Along the way, Coupeville won a second-straight Olympic League crown, rolling to a 9-0 conference mark without dropping a set.

Contrast that against 2014, when three of the seven current seniors — Kyla Briscoe, Lauren Rose (and, in a late season cameo) Katrina McGranahan — played for a team which finished 1-11 under Breanne Smedley.

McGranahan, Allison Wenzel, Hope Lodell and Payton Aparicio were the core of a JV team that went 4-5 under Amy King that season during the first year of the then new four-team Olympic League.

As sophomores, Lodell, Aparicio and McGranahan made the full-time jump to varsity, and the Wolves improved to 6-10, including a district playoff win on their home floor against Seattle Christian.

The JV was the first to break through to a winning record, as Heidi Wyman guided the 2015 team to a 7-4 mark.

The big jump came in 2016, with Wenzel moving up to varsity and Mikayla Elfrank arriving from South Whidbey to make it a seven-pack.

Actually six, since a leg injury sidelined big-hitting Briscoe all season.

With Cory Whitmore sliding into the head coaching job after Smedley returned to her alma mater in Columbia River, the Wolves went 11-6, including an 8-1 run to capture a league title.

Kristin Bridges, making it three JV coaches in as many seasons, went 12-2 and the ascent continued.

For those who didn’t think there was much room left to improve, well, you were wrong.

This season Whitmore’s varsity, for the first time featuring all seven Class of 2018 spikers together on the same roster, zipped through a 12-2 regular season, then split two matches at districts.

A win over Cascade Christian, the school which knocked it out of the playoffs two years earlier, sent the Wolves back to Yakima.

And the JV?

Playing for new coach Chris Smith, with the help of now veteran assistant Ashley Herndon (the only coach to be on scene all four years), went 12-1.

That bodes well for the Wolves, who will have seven open roster spots when they return to chase a third-straight league crown and another trip to Yakima.

For the moment, though, the spotlight firmly remains on the splendid senior class, which includes five girls who came within a single strike of making it to state in softball last season.

This time, they broke through, and did it in style.

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The Pineapple Ninjas.

The Pineapple Ninjas at rest. (Megan Somes photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

(Jacque LaRue photos)

   Tracking down food, but never too busy to stop for a photo op. (Jacque LaRue photos)

Impromptu dance party.

Impromptu dance party.

"We'll be back to see you next year!!"

“We’ll be back to see you next year!!”

They’re building a tradition.

Back-to-back District 11 titles. Back-to-back trips to the state tournament.

With softball fever raging at every level in Coupeville, the younger generation is making a statement. They plan to keep the fire burning on the prairie.

And while the season may have ended Sunday for the Central Whidbey Little League 9/10 All-Star softball sluggers — the Pineapple Ninjas dropped a close 14-11 game to East Seattle in Vancouver — the afterglow of the season will last for a long time.

As she prepared to pull her players back out of the swimming pool and head home, Central Whidbey coach Mimi Johnson was justifiably proud.

The Pineapple Ninjas don’t have the huge base of players that the big-city teams draw from, but they have pluck like no one’s business.

“Girls did great!,” Johnson said. “We battled!!”

And guess what, big-city teams?

They’ll be back and they’ll keep getting better and going deeper in these tournaments.

Central Whidbey softball is on the rise, across every age division, across every team.

Little League to high school, they are getting stronger, more confident, and their belief in themselves, as individual players and as a unit, grows with every day, every play.

They go by many names.

The Pineapple Ninjas, the Sizzlin’ Sisters, the Venom, and then, one day, they all become Wolves.

And the howl of success that is sweeping the prairie never stops echoing.

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Ann Pettit (left) with partner Christina Parker.

Ann Pettit (left) with partner Christina Parker.

“Everything, and I mean everything in my life is based off of basketball in one way or another. My life has revolved around the ball like the earth does around the sun.”

Ann Pettit is one of the greatest basketball players in Coupeville High School history, a high-scoring sensation who helped lead the Wolf girls to their first-ever appearance at the state tournament.

The team’s Offensive Player of the Year in 1996 and ’97 and MVP in ’98, she excelled on the court and it was where she was the happiest.

“My best memories at CHS was when I played basketball,” Pettit said. “That was the only time I enjoyed myself.

“Our team coached kids, as well as went on tournaments, and camps together during the summers,” she added. “We had a great team, very well coached and organized. As a unit we were amazing.”

Pettit was a huge part of that success, making an impact from the first moment Wolf coach Willie Smith gave her varsity playing time.

Bouncing up from the JV team as a swing player her sophomore season, she didn’t enter her first game as a varsity player until the second half, yet still poured in 18.

“Coach Smith put me in during the third quarter, scared out of my mind for sure,” Pettit said. “I will never forget that game. From then on, I was a starter on varsity.”

Teaming with Zenovia Barron to form a formidable scoring duo, Pettit faced down considerable talent to lead the Wolves to state during her senior season in 1997-1998.

While Lakewood and King’s provided huge obstacles, the biggest might have come in the game that sent the Wolves to the Big Dance.

Facing off with Bellevue Christian — the same school Coupeville plays tonight in a district playoff game — Pettit found herself matched up with Cathrine Kraayeveld, now in her 11th season in the WNBA.

Despite giving up considerable height — Pettit was five-foot-nine and Kraayeveld is listed at 6-3 these days — the feisty Wolf held her own and a photo of her being swept up in a post-game hug by mom Julia anchored the Whidbey News-Times coverage of the game.

It is a moment she holds dear.

“My mom came to watch after work. She was so so proud of me,” Pettit said. “The photographer was there at the perfect moment.”

To get to that moment, and all the times she sparkled on the hardwood, Pettit put in considerable time working on her game.

If she had a chance to play, she seized it. Always.

“I played basketball year round. Sometimes I practiced twice a day,” she said. “I had a lot to learn, and skills to develop. I wanted basketball to take me someplace.

“Coupeville was small, still is, but I wanted to experience the sport at another level.”

It was a dream she lived out, playing ball for Peninsula College for two seasons, followed by a stint with York College in Nebraska while she attended Concordia University for fine arts.

Her time at Concordia, followed by the Art Institute of Portland, where she graduated in Design Visualization, led to her current work as a 3D artist.

No matter where she has been, or what work she’s pursuing, basketball has always been there for her.

After countless 3-on-3 tourneys and rec league action (once playing on three different teams at the same time), she is not playing as often as she approaches 35, but, when she does, she still comes full-tilt.

“I have been able to work hard, in work, in life with my dedications I learned through sports,” Pettit said. “I am a competitor. This world is full of competition, everywhere! It is a competition just to merge onto the freeway.

“Basketball itself made me who I am today.”

She’s also seen the game from the other side, coaching a JV girls’ basketball team for two years and handing down the lessons she learned to young players on her rec league teams.

“I want to coach again in the future. My heart will always be with the sport of basketball,” Pettit said.

“I always give the best advice I can while I play and when I coach,” she added. “I feel like now, I coach still with the younger 20’s ladies I play with.”

One of her favorite players, all-time hoops great Sheryl Swoopes, was featured in a Nike ad with the quote “Basketball is basketball, athletes are athletes.”

It is a quote Pettit believes deeply in.

“I always told my girls that. It is easy to get intimidated, and it is easy to intimidate,” Pettit said. “Believe me, there are girls who want to do just that. Always remember it’s basketball.

“She is an athlete just like you. No matter how tall, how fast. Next, the offensive player always has the advantage, and know it,” she added. “Finally, cherish every game like it is your last.

“High school seems like an eternity, but man, basketball was awesome then, love the game.”

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Mollie Bailey (left) has always wanted to be a catcher, all the way since her younger days. Which, admittedly, weren't THAT long ago...

Mollie Bailey (left) has always wanted to be a catcher, ever since her younger days. Which, admittedly, weren’t that long ago…

The most explosive offensive team in all the land.

Bailey (standing in front of coach Lark Gustafson’s upraised right arm) and her teammates celebrate.

Can you say no to Mollie Bailey?

The irrepressible third child in a family of irrepressible, athletic, camera-lovin’ superstars (following big sisters McKayla and McKenzie), Bailey and her teammates need your help.

Their softball squad, the Sizzlin’ Sisters — a 9/10 team that combines Central and South Whidbey players — romped to a district title and punched their ticket to the state tourney.

Of course, state, which starts July 12, is about as far away as you can possibly get, with the host — Asotin — sitting right on the border with Idaho.

It’s a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Whidbey (if traffic is good).

While few non-family members will be likely to make the jaunt to Eastern Washington to cheer on the Sisters, you can help them just the same.

Toss them a buck or two (or more) and help offset the travel costs for the girls, who represent the future of Wolf sports.

Well, and Falcon sports … but hopefully they’ll all move to Coupeville before high school and we won’t have to think about that.

Regardless, this is a chance to do something for young ladies who have risen above and played their hearts out.

Help fuel their dream (and their parents car’s)!!

To help, jump over to:


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