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Carson Grove brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The annual pilgrimage to the wilds of Sultan is off.

For now, at least.

Winter weather encroached on the schedule Tuesday, denying the Coupeville Middle School boys basketball team a chance to bounce across the backroads of the state.

It was snow in Sultan, and not here on Whidbey, which forced the decision.

As to whether the road trip will be rescheduled, Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith was fairly noncomittal.

“We will see…,” he said, then headed off to presumably look for a nice cup of hot chocolate.

CMS has five other games remaining on the schedule, with the season currently set to conclude Dec. 14.

That includes home matchups with King’s (Dec. 1), Sultan (Dec. 12), and Langley (Dec. 14).

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Willow Leedy-Bonifas, seen here last season, played strongly Thursday. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It was a memorable trip.

Thursday’s trek to the wilds of Sultan was about more than just volleyball for the Coupeville Middle School spikers.

Wolf coach Cris Matochi had to push through a back injury to make an appearance, while the poor air quality — 295 on the index — left the outside of the gym looking like snow was falling.

Once inside the enclosure, CMS faced off with a tough Turks program in a rematch of an earlier-season rumble, with the host teams getting a bit of revenge.

How the day played out:

 

Varsity:

Coupeville pulled out a three-set win on Whidbey Island back in early October, but this time around Sultan came out ahead 25-20, 25-21, 15-10.

Sapped by the long trip and the stagnant, smoke-filled surroundings, the Wolves hit the floor missing a bit of their mojo.

“We started with lower energy and had to dig ourselves out of a hole,” said Wolf coach Raven Vick.

“By the end they played really well, but it was just too late in the game.”

Coupeville, normally a strong-serving team, struggled a bit at the line, and that hurt, though the Wolves did “execute the game plan well and had nice ball handling from everyone.”

Vick and Matochi praised the play of Adeline Maynes, who was on fire as a setter, and Haylee Armstong, who sprayed winners all day.

Haylee was a standout, getting multiple attacks and had one kill that left us coaches speechless,” Vick said.

“She had amazing form and crushed the ball to the floor.”

 

JV:

The Wolves “played well and worked hard to get a consistent three touches but struggled with keeping the ball in” during a 25-12, 25-14, 15-8 loss.

“The times we did get all three touches, we would get the point,” Vick said.

Willow Leedy-Bonifas and Emma Leavitt were on point with their serves, setting up positive Wolf rallies.

“Everyone chipped in and did well,” Vick said. “We saw more people who have struggled with serves get at least one serve in, which was great.

“They had some positive energy which was great to see as they really wanted to play well.

“They hustled to every ball and gave so much effort. It was exciting to see.”

 

Coupeville closes its eight-match season with back-to-back rumbles against Island rival Langley next week.

The Wolves host the Cougars Monday, Oct. 24, then head south two days later.

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Tenley Stuurmans and her CMS volleyball teammates are here to rule the gym. (Scott Stuurmans photo)

She’s a terror.

Playing her best at crunch time Wednesday, Coupeville Middle School 7th grader Tenley Stuurmans penned another triumphant chapter in her family’s long, successful sports history.

Sparked by their wild child in the #1 jersey, the Wolf varsity volleyball spikers roared from behind to gut a Sultan squad that thought it was cruising to victory.

Spoiler alert: Coupeville’s first-string, all six players, is better than the 17 Turks piled up on the opposite bench.

The Wolves, especially on this day, were feistier, grittier, and far more cold-blooded when it came time to chop off heads (metaphorically…) and let their opponents bleed out on the hardwood.

Which is why Stuurmans, Lexis Drake, Capri Anter, Rhylin Price, Adeline Maynes, and the queen of the knee-buckling slicers, one Haylee Armstrong, won 14-25, 25-18, 15-10.

Now a pristine 2-0 on the season, with back-to-back three-set thrillers in the win column, the Wolves are on the prowl and ready to square off with King’s next Monday, Oct. 10.

It’ll be the team’s third-straight home match, then CMS hits the open road for treks to Granite Falls, Northshore Christian Academy, and a rematch with Sultan.

That should be a brawl, but one the Wolves are prepared for, knowing they have the ability to yank a win out of the jaws of defeat.

Wednesday’s tilt started as a back-and-forth affair in the first set, before Sultan used a stellar run at the service stripe to stretch a 9-7 lead out to 16-7.

Coupeville fought back, with Armstrong popping off a couple service winners before sliding face-first across the floor to save the ball on a defensive stand.

But it wasn’t quite enough, and the Turks had some strut in their step as the teams went to the bench between sets.

That soon evaporated, however, as CMS fought back, and fought back hard.

Maynes impressed her large fan base with an explosive ace, which dropped suddenly, bit a chunk out of the floor, then skidded away as two Turks swung and missed.

Add in a play where Stuurmans made a sensational save, pulling the ball out of the net with her back to the other team, followed by Price elevating for the put away, and the momentum had shifted.

Drake mashed a pair of winners on her serve, before Stuurmans went on an extended tour of duty at the same stripe, rifling seven straight points to push CMS ahead 18-7.

Coupeville’s biggest lead in the middle set came at 21-9, as a Sultan player slipped just as she went to return a shot.

Her leg went one way, her shoe departed her body and went the other way, screaming “Freedom!”, and the ball ended up somewhere in the rafters.

The play actually seemed to inspire Sultan however, with the Turks going on an 8-1 run after the wayward shoe was retrieved and firmly tied back into place.

The Wolves weren’t having it, though, and the splendid six bore back down, knotting things at a set apiece after Stuurmans froze the entire gym in place on set point, angling a tip one way while all the Turks went in the other direction.

With the match on the line, and Sultan’s fans having gone dead quiet, the ref pulled veteran linesmen Katie Kiel and Nathaniel Leavitt out of the stands for quality control.

Most of their job? Signaling the ball was in, as the Wolf servers dominated in the home stretch.

Stuurmans, twirling the ball and arching an eyebrow ever so slightly, went ballistic at the stripe, racking up seven of her team’s final 15 points on her serve.

An ace down the middle of the court.

A wicked ace which slashed over the net and dove like a submarine fleeing WW2 bombers.

And just for the thrill of it, an ace off the face is the gift which stings all night long.

Maynes and Drake hit winners on their serve, as well, with Maynes also offering up a gorgeous slice return which spun away from Sultan’s defenders and staked Coupeville to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The victory, and the way it was achieved, left CMS coaches Cris Matochi and Raven Vick with satisfied smiles on their faces.

“We worked a lot in practice on moving to the ball, and doing so with commitment,” Matochi said. “Do everything with a purpose and play big girl volleyball.

“I was very pleased with how we’ve improved already in this time.”

That’s something Vick agrees with.

“We’re seeing them apply the technical skills we’ve taught them,” she said. “That is very encouraging.”

 

JV stands tall:

Coupeville’s second unit got progressively stronger as the match went on, fighting for every point in a 25-16, 25-21 loss.

Now 1-1 on the season, the JV unit was as close as 14-13 in the opening set, before Sultan pulled away thanks to some underhanded, lob-heavy precision serving.

Cheyanne Atteberry paced the Wolves in the early going, netting two winners off of well-placed return shots, while Emma Leavitt, Willow Leedy-Bonifas, and KeeArya Brown all came up with big-time plays.

The second set was much like the first, though closer.

Coupeville played from behind most of the time, but never allowed Sultan to dominate, and eventually got within 21-20 late.

Leedy-Bonifas had the hot hand at the stripe this time around, picking up three points on her serve, while Isabella Bowder, Brown, and Leavitt also notched winners.

Alexis Hewitt and Olivia Martin rounded out the active roster, both seeing floor time and injecting an air of electricity with their hustle.

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Hailey Goldman attacks every race with a smile. (Jackie Saia photo)

No fear, just joy.

Coupeville Middle School cross country runners tackled one of the tougher courses they will face this season Saturday at the 15th annual King’s Roller Coaster Trail Run in Shoreline.

To the delight of coach Elizabeth Bitting, her young athletes responded exactly the way she hoped on the 1.6-mile course.

“From the moment we arrived at King’s the air was electric!” she said.

“Music playing, schools walking the course, families eager to cheer on their runners, pumped coaches, the smile on my face and excitement in my heart couldn’t be diminished!

“The athletes were so nervous when we walked the course and they saw the roller coaster hills but during their races they ate those hills up!” Bitting added.

“Compared to last week’s times EVERY athlete set a PR! It was AMAZING!!!!!”

Coupeville placed seven runners — five girls and two boys — in the top 10, with both squads claiming second in the team title chase.

The Wolves get right back at it next week, with a trip to Granite Falls set for Thursday, Sept. 29.

 

Saturday’s results:

 

GIRLS:

Lydia Price (5th) 12:15.70
Mikayla Wagner (6th) 12:42.50
Olivia Hall (7th) 13:01.00
Laken Simpson (8th) 13:07.40
Tirsit Cannon (10th) 13:21.20
Marin Winger (11th) 13:23.30
Ivy Rudat (12th) 13:26.20
Allie Powers (16th) 14:08.10
Sage Stavros (17th) 14:17.20
Devon Wyman (25th) 16:19.90
Mary Western (28th) 17:25.60
Arianna Cunningham (29th) 17:40.00
Amelia Crowder (30th) 17:49.00
Hailey Goldman (31st) 17:56.40
Elizabeth Marshall (35th) 19:14.00
Camilla Wolfe (36th) 20:15.40
Alexandra Lo (37th) 20:17.00
Savannah Niewald (38th) 20:22.00
Maci Wofford (39th) 20:25.30

Coupeville girls captured five medals and a second-place team finish at Shoreline. (Duncan Wagner photo)

 

BOYS:

Beckett Green (5th) 11:23.28
Axel Marshall (6th) 11:23.87
Kenneth Jacobsen (12th) 11:45.02
Nathan Niewald (15th) 12:20.72
Roger Merino-Martinez (16th) 12:22.76
Cyrus Sparacio (17th) 12:50.80
Isaiah Allen (19th) 12:34.23
Johnathan Jacobsen (29th) 13:45.00
Ossian Merkel (31st) 13:51.62
Avery Eelkema (32nd) 13:51.76
Dylan Robinett (37th) 15:12.45
Zach Blitch (40th) 15:47.88

Axel Marshall (left) and Beckett Green cracked the top 10 Saturday. (Elizabeth Bitting photo)

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Wolves (l to r) William Davidson, Zane Oldenstadt, and Logan Downes celebrate a win. (Michelle Glass photo)

They played for #44.

They played like #44.

On a night when Wolf Nation came together to embrace Lathom Kelley’s family, the Coupeville High School football team sizzled on both sides of the ball en route to thunking visiting Sultan 30-13.

The non-conference victory over a former league rival lifts the Wolves to 2-1 on the season, with 2B Coupeville having played up against 1A schools in all three contests.

That sets CHS up for the start of league play, with games against Northwest 2B/1B League rivals La Conner and Friday Harbor the next two weeks.

Friday’s tilt with the Turks was drenched in emotion, as the Wolves honored the life and legacy of Kelley, a four-year letterman and Class of 2016 grad who was lost in a kayak accident last weekend.

Coupeville’s captains — Tim Ursu, Daylon Houston, Logan Downes, and Dominic Coffman — led their teammates in presenting the Kelley family with Lathom’s #44 jersey at halftime.

An overflow crowd, many wearing red in honor of the larger-than-life firecracker who once stormed from sideline to sideline at Mickey Clark Field, came together to offer their support.

Voiced cracked, tears were shed by even the strongest, but the overwhelming feeling was one of love, enveloping all in attendance.

It flowed down from the stands, swirled around the field — even as the prairie wind itself uncannily vanished during the halftime break — and lifted the spirits of all involved.

Coupeville honored the life and legacy of Lathom Kelley. (Angie Downes photo)

Lathom Kelley was a unique athlete, and an even more unique human being — a good-hearted rabble-rouser who made friends with everyone he met — something Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith captured in a heartfelt speech.

As he spoke, Smith’s microphone failed, but he continued without electronic assistance, his soft words carrying from the field to the stadium rafters.

From little kids in their first season of watching football games, to now-retired coaches and teachers who came back in support of a young man who once held court in their classrooms and on their fields, the mass of gathered people was one, hanging on every word.

While the win was huge, it was the non-football actions of his players — such as setting up the jersey tribute and asking to wear Kelley’s #44 on their helmets — which garnered the biggest nod of approval from Wolf coach Bennett Richter.

“Our guys didn’t shy away from the reality of what has happened,” he said. “They were not afraid to show their emotions.

“We had a great talk at halftime, focusing on you do what you can with the time you have, and that there are bigger things in life than a football game.”

On the field, the Wolves rolled out to a two-touchdown lead early, gave one back, then put the game away with back-to-back third quarter scores packaged around a Logan Downes interception.

“Something really clicked for us after halftime,” Richter said. “We came together, and I’m proud of them.”

Coupeville opened the game with a six-minute drive which resulted in a touchdown, only to have Scott Hilborn’s scoring reception waved off thanks to a late flag for holding.

Instead of pouting, the Wolves went right to work on defense, forcing a three-and-out and putting the ball back in the hands of their own offense.

Churning away for yardage, with Coffman and Hilborn shredding tacklers, Coupeville drove 60 yards in six plays, finally getting a touchdown approved by the refs.

The score came from Ursu, who shot around the right side, looked back for half a second, then waved bye, bye, bye as he outran a pack of Turks to the corner of the end zone.

CHS tacked on a PAT from Houston to make it 7-0 before its defense forced a second-straight three-and-out.

Two plays later, it was magic time, with Downes lofting a long laser which Houston pulled down from the heavens while in full stride.

Sultan defensive backs crashing into the turf behind him, Daniel and Alia’s middle child scampered 57 yards to the promised land, not stopping until the Wolf cheerleaders charged down the track to celebrate his touchdown.

While Richter praised his entire team for their effort and poise, he handed out some extra props to his junior quarterback for his play.

“Things really clicked for Logan tonight,” he said. “He stayed in there and took his hits and still made his throws.

“He took things to the next level, and made a huge jump, just like we were hoping to see from him.”

Up 14-0 and having recovered the ensuing kickoff when Sultan’s return man fumbled it away, Coupeville looked on the cusp of unleashing a beatdown.

It wasn’t to be, though, at least in the moment, as things momentarily cooled down.

Sultan’s defense got stingier, and the Turks connected on a 29-yard scoring strike of their own to narrow the lead.

The Wolves came up with some big defensive plays — Jonathan Valenzuela and Peyton Caveness chased down runners, while Coffman bent the opposing QB in half on a sack — but the lead hovered at 14-7 with halftime approaching.

Enter Houston and his bionic leg, as the senior lashed his first field goal of the season high into the night sky to tack on three more points on the final play of the first half.

Daylon Houston accounted for 12 of Coupeville’s 30 points Friday night. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Coming off a longer halftime break than normal, and one fraught with emotion, it was anyone’s guess how the teams would respond in the game’s final 24 minutes.

For Richter and crew, the answer was, pretty dang good.

Hilborn punched in a touchdown on a seven-yard run, Downes snagged his third pick of the season, then Coffman went medieval on the Turks.

Taking the ball up the gut, the feisty three-sport star slammed into a Sultan player on about the third step of his run, the sound of helmets and pads colliding loud enough to be heard up around Deception Pass.

The Turk went down, hard, Coffman flexed, sending two more Sultan players crashing to the turf, and it was off to the races.

Instead of a short, violent run, it turned into a 60-yard, game-busting sprint to freedom, the roar of the crowd rising with each of Coffman’s increasingly faster steps.

It was, both in its power and impact, very much like the runs Lathom Kelley once unleashed on the same field.

While Sultan did manage to scrape out a late score off of a two-yard plunge, the game was firmly locked into the win column, with Coupeville burning clock thanks to an efficient run game.

Richter was able to give quality playing time to freshmen like Aiden O’Neill and Chase Anderson and first-year Wolf players like Casey Masters in the latter stages of the game.

Josh Upchurch was a big hitter for Coupeville’s aggressive defense. (Brittany Kolbet photo)

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