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Mikey Robinett drilled the biggest shot Tuesday as Coupeville Middle School basketball fought back to hold its own with visiting Sultan. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The day got progressively better.

Coupeville Middle School boys basketball had a rough opening act Tuesday, then turned it on to net a stunning comeback and a blowout win in acts two and three, respectively.

The action as it unfolded in front of fans camped out on the hardest bleachers ever built by human hands:

 

7th grade varsity:

Sultan’s younger squad won a 6th grade title last year, and it’s easy to see why.

Using an aggressive, trapping defense, jumping on every loose ball, and combining bad hair choices with sometimes worse attitudes, the Turks rolled to a 48-11 win.

The loss drops Coupeville to 1-2 on the season.

Give credit where credit is due.

A fair amount of Sultan’s players conduct themselves with the kind of attitude that might start a rumble at the next level — and almost did Tuesday, when one ref stopped the game cold to lecture a Wolf and Turk who were throwing elbows, knees and smack talk around in fine fashion.

But, underneath the bluster (and some truly atrocious hairstyles), the Turks are solid players. They play with purpose, intent and an admirable chip on their collective shoulders.

That showed, as they bolted out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter, before triggering a running clock early in the third.

Coupeville didn’t break through until Nick Guay drained a jumper a minute into the second quarter, and by then the Wolves were down 17-0 and the game had slipped away.

Logan Downes, who came in to the game averaging 16 points a night, fought valiantly through the swarming defense, pulling down boards and muscling his way back inside for a team-high six points.

Zane Oldenstadt and Guay added a bucket apiece, while Cole White capped Coupeville’s limited offensive performance by slipping a free throw through the net.

 

7th grade JV:

Playing for the first time this season, the JV fell behind early, then roared back during a frantic final two minutes to earn an 11-11 tie which felt very much like a win.

With the game limited to two quarters, Coupeville stayed close in the early going thanks to a slashing drive to the hoop by Mikey Robinett and a free throw from William Davidson.

Then the basket turned unforgiving towards the Wolves, as one shot after another rimmed out, allowing Sultan to slowly, but surely, creep out to an imposing 11-3 lead.

If the Turks thought they were safe, they were sadly mistaken, however.

The final two minutes was an exercise in pure domination, of the young Wolves reaching down low and finding something maybe even they didn’t realize they had inside themselves.

Robinett, working the boards aggressively, knocked down a put-back to give CMS its first points after a seven-minute dry spell, and his teammates responded.

First up was Davidson, who curled up from underneath a Turk, ripped a rebound free from his unsuspecting rival, and promptly banked the ball home.

With the Wolf faithful beginning to rock the bleachers, Coupeville flipped the ball to Justin Wilkinson.

The cousin of former CHS hoops star Courtney Boyd, he made his hardwood debut a winning one.

Taking a pass at the top of the key, the pint-sized but scrappy Wilkinson sliced through the Sultan defense, rolling hard to the hoop, then lobbing up a one-hander that caught the top of the glass and splashed home with a happy lil’ plop.

In complete disarray at this point, Sultan cracked under the pressure, unable to hit a shot, and unable to stop the Wolves.

Or stop Robinett, in particular.

With the clock madly ticking down, a CMS shot skimmed the rim and headed off to the left, only to be snagged out of mid-air by the Wolf banger.

Whirling smartly around, Robinett slipped past a stumbling defender, then drained a soft jumper, turning the offensive rebound into a game-tying bucket.

Sultan, in complete meltdown, was unable to even get a final shot off, letting the final seconds tick away as Coupeville threw five amped-up and emotional defenders into the fray.

Thanks to a fairly stupid rule which prevents middle school JV teams from playing overtime, the game ended in the kind of tie you normally only have to endure at soccer games.

But there was little doubt as to which team felt like it won, as the Wolves whooped, hollered and mussed Robinett’s hair, while the Turks stood glumly waiting for the high-five line.

 

8th grade varsity:

With the atmosphere still electric, Coupeville’s older team hit the floor and put together its best game of the season.

After grabbing the lead midway through the first quarter, the Wolves turned an early thriller into a runaway, bolting out to a 24-point lead before coasting in for the 44-29 victory.

The win lifts CMS to 1-2 on the season.

In the early going, it looked like the finale to a three-game night might be a nail-biter. But looks are deceiving.

Coupeville snatched the lead for good when Ty Hamilton snared a rebound and turned it into a three-point play the hard way, knocking down the bucket and a free throw after being hammered while shooting.

A 7-3 lead after one quarter stretched into a 20-11 bulge at the half, with a sweet running scoop shot from Kevin Partida and a breakaway bucket by Dominic Coffman getting things started.

After that, the second quarter belonged to the rampaging Alex Murdy.

Hair arranged in a series of knots, the ice-cold assassin turned his Turk rivals inside out.

One bucket came on a coast-to-coast run, but only after he skidded to a stop two steps from the bucket, then dipped around a Sultan defender, creating just enough space to knock down a beauty.

Toss in a three-ball from long distance, a pair of free throws and another coast-to-coast jaunt, and Murdy was feeling it as he and his teammates sprinted to the locker room at the break, huge smiles in place.

Things just got sweeter in the third quarter, as five Wolves scored during a 19-7 surge.

Murdy still had the hot touch, scoring five, including another long trey, but if he was toasty, Hamilton was molten lava.

He started the half off with a three-ball from the top, and liked that so much he hit another one from virtually the same spot a minute later.

Packaged around a swooping layup, the treys gave Hamilton a chance to outscore Sultan by himself, leading to him shrugging at the audience the same way Michael Jordan once did after torching the Blazers in the 1992 NBA finals.

And yes, that still haunts my dreams… But, anyways.

Back in modern-day reality, Coupeville spread its offense between seven players, with three hitting season-highs and three netting their first points of the season.

Murdy singed the nets for 17, Hamilton banked home 11, Coffman drilled seven, and Levi Pulliam swished a long three-ball to kick off the fourth quarter.

Alex Wasik, Josh Upchurch and Kevin Partida added a bucket apiece, with the first two of that trio (and Pulliam) getting into the scorer’s column for the first time.

Rounding out the active Wolf players, Mitchell Hall might not have scored, but he was invaluable, crashing the boards and kicking the ball to open teammates, triggering numerous CMS buckets.

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Emma Smith (left) and Ashley Menges said farewell to their home court Wednesday, as Coupeville volleyball crushed Sultan on Senior Night. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They have lived their lives in the gym, together, as teammates, friends, and, ultimately, sisters from another mother.

Through wins and losses, on school teams and club squads, through endless practice drills, long journeys through the night on school buses and ferries, playing while sick, while hurting, while dealing with the encroachment of real life, they have persevered.

Together, they grew, they matured, they grew confident – as athletes, as students, and, most importantly, as friends.

I won’t tell you they got along perfectly every day of every month of every year. Even friends can argue, have moments when things aren’t flawless.

But I can tell you that pretty much every time we, the fans, saw them, on the court, or in real life, they seemed to take such joy in each other’s company.

Once there was a trio, and then Maddy Hilkey moved to soccer as a junior, and, on the volleyball court, at least, it became a duo.

Sports may have separated the three, with Emma Smith and Ashley Menges staying with volleyball, but, off the court, where it mattered most, they remain close-knit sisters for life.

Wednesday night, the two who remained spikers took the court at Coupeville High School for the final time.

There are still practices ahead, and a trip to the district tourney starting Saturday for a Wolf team which finished the regular season 10-3, with two of those losses coming to the defending state champs.

But Wednesday was the final time Menges and Smith played on their home court, their personal kingdom, their haven, in front of their classmates, their parents and their fans.

And they got the storybook ending they deserved.

Six years of work, of commitment, of growing from girls learning the sport to young women leading by example, in how they played and how they conduct themselves, culminated in a 25-8, 25-21, 25-19 romp over visiting Sultan.

The duo and Wolf coach Cory Whitmore have been part of three straight teams which have posted double-digit win totals.

The win, which ended with Menges reeling off three straight points at the service line – two scorching aces, then a hustle save by Menges which set up a winner by Hannah Davidson – brought the Wolves to 7-3 in league play.

After back-to-back Olympic League titles, Coupeville moved into the tougher North Sound Conference this season and finished 2nd in an often brutal six-team league.

The Wolves toppled arch-rival South Whidbey twice, pushed state champ King’s as hard as any 1A team has this season, and proved they could compete in any league.

Coming on the heels of 11 and 13-win seasons, this year’s total of 10 victories and counting gives CHS a 34-14 record during Cory Whitmore’s three-year run as coach.

Smith and Menges have been constants during that surge, bringing different skill sets to the floor, but the same love of the game.

The former uses her height to ruthlessly defend the net, stuffing would-be kills, then pounding winners that crack the psyche of her rivals.

The latter is a scrambler, a fighter, a hustler, body always in motion, the belief she can, and will, catch up to every runaway ball, no matter how far she has to fling her body, or how hard she has to hit the deck.

As seniors, the duo became captains, sharing duties with junior setter Scout Smith.

The seniors have been the first out of the locker room, the pair at the front of the line as the Wolves circle the floor to begin warm-ups.

All season, all career, they have played for their own success, certainly, but they have played for team above all.

“To my sisters, who others know as my teammates, I couldn’t imagine any other way for my senior year to go,” Menges wrote in her Senior Night remarks.

“I love each and every one of you so much and will cherish the memories I’ve made with all of you,” she added. “You girls have no limit and I believe in you all so much, and can’t wait to see what you all are able to do in your years to come.”

Menges hangs out with dad Terry, brother Cody and mom Jennifer.

It’s a sentiment shared by Emma Smith, as well.

“From the seniors my freshmen year, to the freshmen my senior year, without knowing it, every single one of you has inspired me,” she wrote.

“The commitment all of you had or have made me want to be a more committed player. The grit and passion all of you had or have made me want to have more grit and passion,” Smith added. “And finally, the love you had for the game has made me fall even more in love with it.”

The playoffs loom ahead for the duo, and there is always, tantalizingly in the background, the whisper of more playing days if either or both follow in the footsteps of former teammates and seek out a chance to play in college.

There will be fans who follow the Wolves on the road for the postseason, but Wednesday was a final chance to feel the full roar of the Coupeville faithful.

And the roar came, as Menges struck first, dropping a dagger of a winner while floating the length of the net.

With sophomore Chelsea Prescott ripping off nasty serve after nastier serve, Emma Smith rose to the moment.

She flung her arms skyward, rejected a Sultan shot, then bounded back up to smash the incoming reply, the first of three straight winners she lashed.

The third, and final, kill was a mix of unrelenting power and uncanny precision, landing in the very tiniest part of the far left corner and tearing a chunk out of reality itself as it detonated.

From there, the senior duo, and their younger teammates, picked the Turks apart, trailing only once in three sets, and then just by a single point.

Menges toasted the Turks for seven straight points on serve, with one epically nasty ace slicing a hunk of flesh off the would-be returner’s arm, before Maya Toomey-Stout closed out the opening set with another long, blistering run at the line.

Smith is joined by sister Savannah and mom Konni.

The second and third set were moderately closer, as Sultan fought with an intensity which belied their 1-9 mark in league play.

“They are a better team than their record might indicate, and have improved since the first time we played them,” Whitmore said.

While Sultan had spunk, Coupeville has killers, and that carried the Wolves through a few rough spots.

Prescott, who “did a great job in the front row,” was a sniper, smacking kills off Sultan arms, legs, and every other body part she could find.

Her fellow underclassmen on the floor — Toomey-Stout, Hannah Davidson, Scout Smith, Emma Mathusek, Maddie Vondrak and Lucy Sandahl — all sparkled.

Scout Smith doled out 16 assists, Toomey-Stout peeled the paint with 10 kills, and Prescott racked up six kills and nine digs, but the night belonged to the seniors.

Emma Smith had six kills, five aces (with several leaving Turk players with their mouths gaping wide open) and two blocks, while Menges notched five roasty, toasty aces, four digs and three kills.

But their impact, in this final home win, in the four years they spent in the CHS program, in the six years they have chased their volleyball dream, came from much more than mere stats.

In this one momentary (but not final) ending, as in the beginning, it was their spirit, their desire, their love of the game, of each other, and of their teammates, which mattered most.

That was shown when Sandahl momentarily broke down while offering a heartfelt pregame thank you to Menges.

A small sob caught in Lucy’s throat, but then a giant smile broke across her face, as all the positive memories she has shared with her mentor, teammate and friend rose up and pushed away any sadness.

And it echoes in the final words offered by Menges herself.

“You have all given me so much to be thankful for and I’ll miss being on the court with all of you.”

The dynamic duo.

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Ivy Leedy and the Wolf JV volleyball team capped a successful season with a rout of Sultan. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They closed with a scream.

A scream of triumph and joy, yes, but also a warning to other teams – the next generation of Coupeville High School volleyball stars is here, and they’re ready to kick your fanny.

Back-to-back sizzlin’ aces off of the fingertips of freshman Izzy Wells capped the Wolf JV’s three-set sweep of visiting Sultan Wednesday, and it gave Chris Smith’s players the perfect punctuation to their season.

Riding a 25-15, 25-15, 26-24 win over the Turks, Coupeville’s next gen team finished the season 4-6 in North Sound Conference play, 6-7 overall.

The young Wolves, a work in progress, were a play or two from winning as many as nine matches this season, with a few rumbles slipping away in the final points.

That wasn’t the case on the last night of the regular season though, as CHS, with predominantly freshman on the floor in the final set, drove a stake through the heart of the Turks.

The two teams waged a tense back-and-forth affair in the final frame, with Anya Leavell rising up and giving a star performance.

She lashed a kill to stake the Wolves to an early 10-4 lead, and strong runs at the service stripe from Noelle Daigneault and Abby Mulholland sent the third set in the direction of a runaway, much like the first two frames.

Sultan fought back, however, trying to scratch out some redemption, and eventually held a set point at 24-23.

With the home crowd vocal in its support, the Wolf JV forced a side out to even things, then tossed the ball to Wells, who has been aces with her serve game all season.

One swing of the arm, two swings of the arm, and the celebration was on, as Sultan couldn’t get a finger on either of her offerings, as both serves skipped merrily by.

The late comeback capped a match that Coupeville otherwise dominated.

The opening set was all about power, with Maddie Vondrak mashing the ball, scattering Turks before her with every titanic blow.

When she wasn’t launching rockets, the Wolf sophomore showcased a complete game, flying high to stuff a would-be Sultan kill, before twirling in mid-air on another play, flicking a winner between two Turks.

Vondrak had plenty of help, as Zoe Trujillo lashed lasers from the sides, while Leavell smashed a kill from mid-court which ripped off some paint on the back line as it landed.

Coupeville was on point with its service game, as well, getting strings of points from Jaimee Masters, Lucy Sandahl and Ivy Leedy.

The second set was a virtual repeat of the first, started off with a run of aces by Sandahl, then punctuated by a stuff at the net from Kylie Van Velkinburgh and a low, screaming winner which sprang off of the palm of Masters and scorched the net as it went over.

Willow Vick pounded away at the service line to finish the middle set, and her run of four straight points ended on a perfect note.

Twirling the ball, she glanced at twin sister Raven, then fired a scorcher which slammed into the court, then exploded upward into a Sultan players face, completely knocking the hapless Turk off her feet.

Across the net, Willow Vick stamped her feet and pumped her fists while her teammates jumped in joy, providing a clear portrait of what’s likely to come in the future.

A whole lot of Wolf celebrations and a whole lot of time spent picking themselves off the floor for their rivals.

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Sophomore Chelsea Prescott chipped in with eight digs and two aces Tuesday as Coupeville volleyball crushed Sultan in straight sets. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“They’re stuffing you like a great big green pepper!”

The commentator on the TurkTV internet feed Tuesday knew what was up — Sultan was getting whupped, and Coupeville was holding the paddle.

Kicking into high gear after a brief slow start, the Wolf spikers rained down holy terror on their hosts, rolling to a 25-23, 25-9, 25-14 victory which keeps them a game out of first-place in league action.

With the win, Coupeville soars to 4-1 in North Sound Conference play (right behind 5-0 King’s) and 7-1 overall.

The Wolves kick off the second half of the league season Thursday, when they host Cedar Park Christian (2-3, 6-4), before zipping off to Eastern Washington for Saturday’s 14-team Wenatchee Invite.

Tuesday, Coupeville faced off with a team which played much better than its win-less record in league play might indicate.

The Turks jumped on a rare bit of service misfire from the Wolves in the first set, staying close until CHS found another gear to close things out.

“We missed eight serves, which were infectious, and putting those serves in creates a different story,” said Coupeville coach Cory Whitmore. “And while we didn’t serve well in the first, they played very clean.”

Once they got past their brief hiccup, the Wolves reverted to the big-hitting, precision-passing squad their fans are used to seeing.

“I was happy to see us turn it around, only making five hitting errors total in the second set,” Whitmore said. “We passed and served well and carried that momentum into the third and maintained a lead the entire way.

“I’m proud of the way that we turned around and fixed exactly what we needed to.”

Front-row smashers Emma Smith and Hannah Davidson were in perfect sync, both finishing the night without a single hitting error.

With Scout Smith lofting 21 assists to go along with her four aces, the Wolf big hitters had plenty of opportunities to launch wicked spikes.

Maya Toomey-Stout led the way with 10 kills, while Emma Smith tallied six and Davidson launched four.

Toomey-Stout, who also scraped nine digs off the floor and ripped off a pair of service aces, earned another big compliment from the TurkTV crew.

As “The Gazelle” hung in mid-air for an eternity before launching one missile, the awe-struck announcer blurted out “I think she can jump to the moon and back!”

While Toomey-Stout’s aerial ballet earned her some new fans, she got a lot of help from her teammates.

Chelsea Prescott collected eight digs and two aces, Ashley Menges fired off five aces, Emma Mathusek went low for three digs and swing player Zoe Trujillo popped onto the floor to rip off an ace of her own.

 

JV:

Led by a big serving performance from Jaimee Masters, the Wolf young guns thrashed the Turks 25-13, 25-18.

The win, the team’s second-straight, lifts the JV to 2-3 in league play, 4-4 overall.

Coupeville dominated in all aspects of the game, from Lucy Sandahl lofting 17 superb assists, to Masters torching the Turks for seven service aces, to the Wolves sharing duty when it came time to smash put-aways.

Maddie Vondrak peppered Sultan for five kills, while Willow Vick smashed four and the tandem of Trujillo and Raven Vick laced three winners apiece.

The Vicks were equal opportunity killers, combining to launch seven service aces, with Willow narrowly edging her twin sister 4-3.

Freshmen Abby Mulholland and Anya Leavell also saw floor time for the JV, as all seven Wolves to take the court played as one.

“Overall we controlled the ball well and played in system,” said Coupeville coach Chris Smith. “The hitters performed well, keeping us on the plus side for our hitting percentage.”

 

C-TEAM:

With the win in hand, Smith went to his bench for the third set.

While the Wolves fell 25-15, their coach saw many positives.

“Set three, our younger players got some valuable floor time,” Smith said. “Although we came up short in that set, the experience helps identify areas of focus going forward in practice.”

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Ema Smith and her Wolf teammates scrapped on the turf in Sultan Tuesday, but the Turks escaped with a 1-0 win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

A change in field, a change in results.

Playing on turf in Sultan Tuesday, the Coupeville High School girls soccer team had trouble finding its scoring touch and absorbed a painful 1-0 loss to the host Turks.

It was a complete reversal from the first time the two teams played on Whidbey, when the Wolves scorched Sultan 6-0 while playing on a natural grass surface.

The loss drops Coupeville to 1-6 in North Sound Conference action, 2-9-1 overall, and will make it harder, but not impossible, for the Wolves to nab a playoff spot.

Five of the six teams in the new league advance to the postseason, and a CHS win would have put it two games up on Sultan (also now 1-6) with three to play.

Instead, the two teams are now locked in a tie for the final playoff berth, two games back of the league’s #4 team, Cedar Park Christian (3-4).

King’s (7-0), Granite Falls (5-2) and South Whidbey (4-3) currently hold down the top three slots.

Tuesday’s tilt on the Turk turf was one of those cases where a lot of small things build up and create bigger issues.

Coupeville’s roster is battling illness, there were no assistant refs on the scene, leaving one man to monitor the entire field, and then there was the faster surface, with its often unexpected bounces.

“We had a difficult time adjusting. Definitely slowed us down,” Coupeville coach Kyle Nelson said. “Throw in no AR’s, and a few sick girls, and we had a recipe for a bad game going.”

And yet the Wolves fought from start to finish, with their defense doing everything possible.

Wolf defender Tia Wurzrainer was a fireball in the backfield, shutting down Sultan strikers and stopping one shot on goal by sacrificing her own body, absorbing the force of the shot as she tumbled backwards.

With goalie Sarah Wright standing tall in the net, and Wurzrainer’s fellow defenders, like freshman Mary Milnes, keeping the Turks at bay, the game went into the half in a scoreless tie.

Sultan finally broke the seal on the net eight minutes into the second half, thanks to a bad bounce and a smooth move by its senior captain.

Coupeville lost control of the ball while sending it up-field, and the Turks took advantage.

Faith Kindle, with the ball on her toe, slid to the left, then dumped a ball back to the right, just squeezing it into the corner of the net at the last second for what would turn out to be the game’s only score.

The Wolves kept forcing the issue, with Lindsey Roberts smashing long balls and Genna Wright and Avalon Renninger fighting to get off a few shots, but Sultan’s defense proved up to the challenge.

Turk goalie Amanda McKay made a couple of nice snags to blunt Coupeville’s best scoring chances, and the Wolves couldn’t buy a break as the final minutes ticked away.

CHS gets to get back to playing on grass for its next two games.

The Wolves host Cedar Park Christian Thursday and South Whidbey Oct. 15, before traveling to Granite Falls Oct. 17 for the regular season finale.

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