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Sophia Martin and Coupeville High School girls soccer have at least one more home game, and possibly as many as three. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

By Wednesday, we’ll know what’s what.

The North Sound Conference girls soccer season wraps up that night, and all six teams still have unanswered questions.

Monday night, Coupeville fell 4-0 to South Whidbey, King’s bopped Sultan 6-1, and Granite Falls blanked Cedar Park Christian 3-0.

That leaves South Whidbey (9-0 in league, 13-0-1 overall) and King’s (8-1, 11-4) headed for a fierce finale Wednesday in Shoreline.

The Falcons could win the league title outright, or the Knights, who are the defending champs, could rally to earn a share of the 2019 crown.

The other games, which ultimately mean more to Coupeville fans, have Sultan (1-8, 1-12-2) visiting Cedar Park (4-5, 7-6) and Granite Falls (4-5, 7-7) coming to Whidbey to clash with the Wolves (1-8, 1-11-2).

It’s Senior Night for CHS, with a 6 PM varsity-only kickoff.

The game could be the final home appearance for Wolf 12th graders Avalon Renninger, Mallory Kortuem, Anna Dion, Tia Wurzrainer, and Natalie Hollrigel.

But, it doesn’t have to be.

If Coupeville and Sultan remain deadlocked through Wednesday’s games, they would be tied for the fifth, and final, playoff berth from the North Sound Conference.

The Turks would then hop on a bus Thursday, and travel to Coupeville to play a tie-breaker game.

Kickoff would be 6 PM, the game would consist of two 20-minute halves (half the normal time), and the winner would live on, while the loser would start planning the postseason banquet.

Now, if Coupeville has that #5 playoff seed, either by beating Granite Wednesday while Sultan loses to CPC, or by thumping the Turks in a tie-breaker, there would be yet another home game.

That would be Saturday, with a 1 PM kickoff.

The opponent would be the #4 seed from the Northwest Conference (likely Mount Baker), and it would also be a loser-out game, with the winner advancing on to districts.

Both the Thursday and Saturday games, if they happen, will operate under regular-season pricing, which means they’d be free.

If the Wolves are still standing after Saturday, the rest of their postseason run (with playoff pricing) would be 100% on the road, beginning with a trip Monday, Oct. 28 to the home of NSC #3.

Which could be Cedar Park or Granite.

Got that straight? Cause there will be a test.

Monday’s game was played in a rainstorm which made the South Whidbey pitch extremely slick.

Facing off with the beast of the league, the Wolves held up well, at least for a time.

“We held them scoreless until about five minutes to play in the first half,” said CHS coach Kyle Nelson. “Unfortunately they put in three in quick succession.

“The second half we did a better job of holding them out, conceding only one.”

Coupeville came close to getting on the scoreboard, with Anna Dion smacking a shot off of the goal post during one attack on the Falcon goal.

That continued a season-long trend for the Wolves, who have been inches away from doubling their 10-goal output.

“I think we just may lead the league in shots that have hit the goal post or crossbar,” Nelson said with a small smile.

 

JV caps season:

Coupeville’s second squad also fell 4-0 in the rain Monday, with numerous players shining through the gloom.

Lily (Leedy) played her heart out; Katelin (McCormick) can kick a ball like no other … AMAZING,” said Wolf mom Stephanie Grimm.

Sam (Streitler) would not let a ball in, killing it at keeper,” she added. “Aurora (Cernick) protected the keeper like no other. Brekyn (Clark) worked amazing with Lily.”

This was the first time in memory CHS has had enough players to field a JV team, which gave Nelson a chance to get much more playing time for the girls who are the future of the program.

The second team was competitive in every game, and beat Port Townsend for the highlight of the season.

“Nice to have a JV go out and play quite a few games this year,” Nelson said. “We lost last night, but the progress over the course of the season was clearly evident.”

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CHS freshman Tim Ursu, giving up 100 or more pounds to 11 different South Whidbey players, twice picked up hard-earned first downs Friday on strong runs. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“I’ll take this effort and fight any day.”

In less than two full seasons at the helm of the Coupeville High School football team, coach Marcus Carr has brought a new fire to the program.

The current incarnation of the Wolves already have their most wins in a single season since 2014, and even in their losses, have shown a fight missing in recent years.

While Carr wanted a win Friday night, a Homecoming victory against South Whidbey that would have given the Wolves ownership of The Bucket, he didn’t get it.

Coupeville fell 35-7 to a visiting Falcon team which boasts 14 seniors and twice as many 200+ pound players as a freshman-heavy Wolf roster does.

South Whidbey football, which came back from the brink of extinction thanks to the return of coach Mark Hodson, has earned its 5-2 record this year thanks to good, hard-nosed defensive play and an opportunistic offense.

But, even with the loss, which snaps a three-game winning streak, Coupeville is still sitting strong at 4-3 with two very winnable games left on its schedule.

A victory away from posting the first winning record by a CHS football team since 2005, this year’s squad hasn’t backed down from anyone.

And that’s why Carr could see the positives as he surveyed the field after Friday’s loss.

“We showed a lot of fight, fought hard against a big, strong team,” he said. “Our whole defensive unit really stood up for us and did their best to hold them, even when they were put in bad positions a lot of the time.”

South Whidbey entered the game on the heels of an agonizing loss on the road to Cedar Park Christian, a royal rumble where the Falcons surrendered the winning score on a 90+ yard drive during the final two minutes of action.

Coupeville came in having bounced La Conner, Kittitas, and Northwest Christian in succession, the last two after making epic road trips.

With both teams boasting 4-2 records at the start of the night, the best on Whidbey Island, as Oak Harbor struggles through a 1-6 rebuilding season which includes another loss Friday, the table was set.

For much of the first half, it was a war of attrition, with both teams moving the ball, only to find the opposing defense unwilling to bend.

The Wolves opened the game mixing up runs from Andrew Martin and Dakota Eck with a big pass play on which Gavin Straub shot from right to left at the last second and hauled in a quick heave from Dawson Houston.

Another pass play to Sean Toomey-Stout, this one also a 10-yard pick-up like Straub’s catch, had the Wolves on the move in Falcon territory.

But that was where things stalled out, with two penalties pushing the Wolves back, before they coughed up the ball on a fumble.

If South Whidbey thought it would immediately capitalize, it was wrong, however.

The Falcons had first-and-goal from the Wolf seven-yard line, only to have Coupeville drive them back, and hard.

CHS Homecoming King Gavin Knoblich, wearing an eye-popping pair of shoes, came hurtling through a hole in the line, chasing down a South Whidbey runner who bobbled the pitch, then had nowhere to go.

Putting his man down hard, the Wolf senior cost the Falcons 12 yards, and two plays later, the ball was back in Coupeville’s hands after a run over the middle went nowhere and a pass bounced short of its intended target.

That set a trend for the rest of the first quarter, as both defenses dominated.

Gabe Shaw, Martin, and Toomey-Stout refused to give the Falcons anything, but South Whidbey’s defense was just as smothering.

As the quarter ended, both teams fumbled the ball away under intense pressure, and the scoreboard showed nothing but zeroes at the first break.

A couple of long punts, and South Whidbey picking off a halfback pass, and the thought fans would never see a score lingered in the air.

But the Falcon seniors, who brought the program back from dark days, which included losses to Coupeville as freshmen and sophomores, changed the game.

First man up was Billy Rankin, a 5-foot-6, 142-pound sledgehammer, who finally busted through the Wolf defense, crashing around the left side for a 26-yard touchdown run with a little over eight minutes left in the first half.

Not content to sting the Wolves just once, he popped back up a few plays later, bringing back a Coupeville punt 40+ yards to set his offense up.

A face mask penalty on Coupeville on the ensuing drive was costly, and then Falcon senior Aiden Coleman powered in from three yards away to stretch the lead out.

Racing the halftime clock, the Wolves tried to get a drive rolling, only to have the referees bring out the chain crew to measure on THREE consecutive plays.

Unsung Wolf heroes Lark Gustafson and Randy Payne, earning their halftime treats, which included some pretty dang good brownies they shared with the press box crew, got their moment in the spotlight.

As well as some good-natured razzing from clock operator Joel Norris.

“Get ’em some oxygen! They’re gonna need it!!,” he giggled.

The third time was the charm, as Coupeville finally got their hard-earned first down. Only to see the drive sputter out on another pick off of a halfback pass, this one thrown by a different Wolf.

Even down 14-0 at the half, it still felt like the Wolves were very much in the game.

Until the Falcons smacked Cow Town with a one-two combo early in the third quarter.

First, South Whidbey QB Kole Nelson hooked up with tall target Brady Hezel on a 35-yard touchdown pass which stung even worse since it came on fourth-and-11.

Then, after coughing up another fumble on their very first offensive play after the ensuing kickoff, the Wolves sent a tired defense immediately back on the field.

Two plays later, Bodi Hezel joined his brother in the scoring column, slamming in on a short, effective run.

In just 24 seconds of game time, the score went from 14-0 to 28-0, then it stayed that way most of the rest of the way.

With the Falcons facing a fourth-and-five from the Wolf seven-yard line, Knoblich once again stood tall, blowing up the runner and forcing a turnover on downs.

But South Whidbey punched another ball free, before Brady Hezel picked off a pass on his side of the field and took off for a pick-six which covered 60+ yards and pushed the Falcon lead to 35-0.

Even down by five scores, the Wolves, as they have in every game this season, showed no quit.

Freshman Tim Ursu, who gives up 100 or more pounds to at least 11 Falcons, twice broke off runs which gave the Wolves first downs, while Toomey-Stout found a little razzle-dazzle to end the game on a positive note.

Following Brady Hezel’s pick-six, the Falcons lofted a kickoff which, like every punt or kick, went in the opposite direction of the much-feared man known as “The Torpedo.”

On this final kick, Jonathan Partida brought the ball down into his arms, then broke to the right.

Only, instead of running with it, he crossed up the Falcons, flipping the ball to the streak of light slashing across the field in his direction.

The ball on his fingertips, no matter what South Whidbey had intended, Toomey-Stout took two quick strides, burst through a pack of would-be tacklers, and was gone, baby, gone.

Covering 55 yards in a few powerful strides, the Wolf senior crossed the line for his seventh touchdown of the season. He’s scored five on pass receptions, one on a pick-six, and now, finally, one on a return.

And I say finally, since Toomey-Stout has had no less than three return touchdowns called back this season thanks to penalty flags thrown at his young blockers.

This time, the flags stayed safely tucked into the pockets of the officials, and the electric scoring play, punctuated by a booming PAT from frosh Daylon Houston, kept CHS from being shut out for the first time this season.

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Vivian Farris was sensational Thursday, as she and the Wolf C-Team pulled off a truly stunning comeback win. (Brian Vick photos)

“We’re just here to take all the wins, baby!!”

Al Michaels called. He doesn’t believe it.

The announcer who gave the world “Do you believe in miracles?” ran out of words when confronted with what went down in South Whidbey’s #2 gym Thursday night.

Down a set and coming back to win? Sure.

Facing 12 consecutive match points and fighting them all off? Um…

Pulling together as a team and playing absolute flawless volleyball for five torrid minutes, the Coupeville High School C-Team volleyball squad shocked the crowd (and anyone reading this), while ripping out the collective hearts of their next door neighbors.

Reading the score, which came out 19-25, 25-16, 28-26 in favor of the Wolves doesn’t do it total justice.

And, as fate would have it, I wasn’t in the room for this one, as both the Coupeville JV and C-Team were playing at the same time, and I chose the main gym, where there was a pretty intense match-up of its own.

But the C-Team squad dodging death, destruction and what would have been its first loss to anyone other than the juggernaut known as King’s, was obviously the match of the night.

Possibly of the season.

“I can’t feel my face!”

“Is this real life?”

“Oh lord, where’s my pacemaker???”

“I’m just saying, there should be a 2-for-1 deal on hot dogs for all Wolf fans after that one…”

All pertinent comments coming out of the mouths of dazed, confused and deliriously happy Coupeville fans as they exited the side gym to rejoin their brethren in the big room.

The win lifts the Wolf spikers to 6-1 in league play, 7-1 overall, but is bigger, much bigger.

This is the kind of victory, the kind of jolt to the psyche of all involved, which can launch a thousand future celebrations.

Bouncing back from an early deficit, one of the few they have faced this season, Krimson Rector’s squad of furious fightin’ freshmen came roaring back multiple times.

A dominating performance in set two evened things up, but the Falcons seemed to have recovered, up 24-12 in the third frame, needing just a single, solitary point to get over the top.

It was a point which never came, as Wolf Vivian Farris, channeling the spirit of Lauren Rose, the calmest server in CHS volleyball history, went off on a tear at the line.

One point, two points, five points, the collar constricting around every Falcon’s neck, and the “we’ve got this” spirit growing in the soul of each Coupeville player.

All the way back to 24-24 the Wolves came, and then the two squads went at it in the middle of the ring, pounding shots to the ribs and refusing to fall.

Mercedes Kalwies-Anderson came up with big plays for CHS, and then the battlin’ Lucero twins, Allie and Maya, sealed the deal.

The final point was a wild one, with a return allegedly bouncing off a basketball backboard, before Coupeville put South Whidbey out of its misery.

At least for the moment.

Ten years from now, when a random Falcon player thinks back on this night, she may start screaming for no reason.

It’s possible. Very possible.

For the Wolves however, for Rector and her rampaging crew of win-happy big hitters, this will be one for the memory books.

The cold hard facts will show Ryanne Knoblich led the air attack, smacking seven kills, while Jordyn Rogers (3), Kalwies-Anderson (2), Farris (1), and Allie Lucero (1) all chipped in.

At the line, Gwen Gustafson popped a team-best four service aces, with Rogers, Farris, and Maya Lucero throwing down three apiece.

But, as is always the case with epic matches like this, it’s about more than just the stats.

It’s about Gustafson charging out of the side gym and bear-hugging a teammate as she told her the final score.

It’s about the Lucero twins, relating the tale of the final, frantic moments, words tumbling out, then dissolving into huge smiles as dad Aaron beamed like the sun over the Serengeti.

It’s about Rector, poppin’ gum and pumpin’ fists, as she rambled into the big gym to join fellow Wolf coaches Cory Whitmore and Chris Smith for the varsity contest.

It’s about the future of Coupeville volleyball. A future which seems to have few limitations.

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Zoe Trujillo stepped up big Thursday night, helping Coupeville volleyball sweep South Whidbey in straight sets. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Emma Mathusek and friends are 11-1 heading into Senior Night.

The freight train keeps rumblin’ down the track, wrecking almost everything in its way.

Overcoming a young, but feisty South Whidbey squad Thursday, the Coupeville High School varsity volleyball team continues to match the best start in program history.

Pulling out a 25-20, 25-17, 25-23 win on the road in Langley, during a rumble in which they came back from a 10-1 deficit in the final set, the Wolves improve to 6-1 in North Sound Conference play, 11-1 overall.

Coupeville sits a game off of King’s (7-0, 11-0) in the race for a title, and is a win away from clinching at least second-place in league play.

The Wolves, who have three regular season bouts left, starting with Senior Night Tuesday against Granite Falls, have matched the 2004 CHS spikers for the best record through 12 matches.

But, while they won in straight sets Thursday, it wasn’t a walk-over.

The Falcons, led by freshman Morgan Batchelor, who was ferocious at the net all night, led in every set, but ultimately broke when the much-more experienced Wolves fully bared their teeth.

Eight of Coupeville’s 12 varsity players are seniors, and they are a pack which has played together through middle and high school.

Their CHS days have come under the guidance of coach Cory Whitmore, who took the helm of the program as the current seniors arrived on campus as freshmen.

Together, coach and players have produced four straight seasons of 11 or more wins, two league titles (so far), and a trip to state in 2017.

They may bend at times, but the Wolves rarely break, as South Whidbey was reminded once again.

With a hyped-up crowd behind them, the Falcons jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the first set, before Coupeville used its strong team-wide serving to take control.

Maya Toomey-Stout was the first Wolf to go off, putting together a run of four straight points, with a huge spike from Zoe Trujillo and a Hannah Davidson kill which caught the top of the net and flopped over, helping to spark things.

With the score knotted at 10-10, that brought Wolf captain Scout Smith to the line, and the Falcon faithful to their feet.

To their credit, the South Whidbey student section brought the hootin’, the hollerin’, and the good-natured harassin’, yet they forgot one thing.

Nothing ruffles Scout Smith. Nothing.

Perhaps her insides are a cauldron of bubbling anxiety, but, if so, she never, ever betrays it.

Instead, Smith, like her brothers before her, just placidly stares ahead, ignores the din, and unleashes winner after winner.

With her serves, and her flawless passes, paving the way, Scoutosaurus Rex set the table, and Trujillo and Maddie Vondrak dined out, lashing winners and leading group cheers afterwards.

Up 16-10 after Smith’s service run, the Wolves got a five-spot from Raven Vick, who was crackin’ off lasers on her serve, and Coupeville stretched the lead out.

Batchelor refused to bend the knee, however, crashing a pair of eye-popping kills off the back corner, including one which held off set point, at least for a moment.

But what was meant to be was meant to be, as Toomey-Stout, once herself a preternaturally-talented freshman, and now a battle-hardened senior, came flying in to finish off the set.

Exploding skyward, scanning the Falcons for a weakness, “The Gazelle” locked and loaded, her arm rearranging the molecules of the volleyball as she pounded a final kill, angling it off a rival’s arm and out of bounds.

The second set was more of the same, with Batchelor playing like a star, but Coupeville responding with danger from every angle.

Lucy Sandahl was a delight at the service stripe, while Toomey-Stout, Davidson, Trujillo and Vondrak brought the heat with a tantalizing variety of kills, stuffs, and tips.

Coupeville took the lead quicker in set two, never surrendering it once up 4-3.

Trujillo, playing in front of big sis Valen, herself a CHS volleyball all-timer, upheld family honor with an especially-strong performance.

A late service ace off of Zoe’s fingertips was a true marvel, diving and burrowing under a Falcon player’s arms.

The less said about the first third of the final set, probably the better, as the Wolves, for a few minutes, seemed to collectively forget how to play their chosen sport.

But, a few quiet words from Whitmore later, Coupeville righted the ship and did so in a hurry.

Sandahl started the comeback with a six-point run at the line, several big kills from Davidson pulled the Wolves closer, and then, bam, Trujillo was once again the woman on the spot, slamming a ball off of a Falcon’s chin to push CHS up 15-14.

Even then, Batchelor and Co. kept coming, yanking the lead back and going up as far as 23-19.

With the crowd noise surging, and momentum seemingly slipping away from the Wolves, Coupeville needed a big-time play to turn the tide a final time.

Enter Toomey-Stout, who forced a side-out with a floor-shaking kill, and Vondrak, who ended the match with a five-point run at the line.

And exit to the bus a happy Whitmore, who has guided Coupeville volleyball to a .730 winning percentage (46-17) during his time on the Wolf bench.

“It was good to come out on top versus an improved South Whidbey team,” he said.

If he scanned the stat sheet on the short jaunt back to Cow Town, Whitmore saw a very-balanced attack, with Smith (25 assists, seven digs, two aces, two kills) and Toomey-Stout (11 kills, 16 digs, two aces) leading the way.

Davidson (eight kills, two blocks), Trujillo (five kills, three aces, four digs), Vondrak (four kills, two aces), Vick (two digs), Sandahl (two aces, four digs), Emma Mathusek (seven digs) and Lucy Tenore also joined in on the fun.

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Kylie Chernikoff brings the thunder and the lightning. (Brian Vick photo)

It helps when you have the best player on the floor.

Thursday night’s JV volleyball match-up between South Whidbey and visiting Coupeville was competitive, tense, a back-and-forth rumble.

And then Kylie Chernikoff went off, plucking every last feather off the Falcons.

Paced by their stellar star, who rocketed her way to a 13 kill, eight dig, three service ace performance, the Wolves came out on top 25-21, 21-25, 25-15.

With the win, Coupeville rises to 6-1 in North Sound Conference play, 9-2 overall.

To get to the finish line and take a season sweep from their next door neighbors, the Wolves had to overcome a few rough moments along the way.

All of that faded into the mist which hung over the SWHS parking lot, as Coupeville exited on a major high, riding big-time serving and bigger-time kills to run wild in the third, and deciding set.

Every Wolf to step to the line in the final set went off on a run, with Jaimee Masters and Taygin Jump leading the way with four straight points on their serve.

Jump lashed back-to-back aces to bust open the set, but it was Chernikoff, lurking, waiting, anticipating, then exploding and decimating, who put the fear of God into her rivals.

One spike tore off a Falcon player’s arm, leaving it flopping uselessly on the floor (maybe I’m slightly exaggerating, but just slightly…), while another Chernikoff masterpiece was delivered from her own back-court, yet still ripped a chunk out of South Whidbey’s back line.

A sweet little running tip for a winner from Jump sweetened the deal, before scorching serves from Maddie Georges, Heidi Meyers, and Abby Mulholland softened up the defense.

And then … oh, good sweet lord, hide the women and children … Kylie is trying to kill people again!!

Chernikoff’s final thunderous spike, which put Coupeville a point away from winning the match, erupted off of her hand like a bolt of lightning, made every hair on the back of Wolf coach Chris Smith’s neck stand up and salute, and almost broke the universe itself.

Six South Whidbey players saw the blast coming, and six South Whidbey players decided they’d rather stay out of the way and live to breathe another day.

After that, the final point of the match, a low, screaming, extremely nasty ace from Mulholland, was impressive, and yet almost an afterthought as the gym support beams continued to shake from Chernikoff’s spike.

The strong finish brought a positive ending to a match which went back-and-forth for much of the way.

Despite getting strong work at the net from Anya Leavell (slicing winners left and right) and Jill Prince (rejecting and stuffing would-be Falcon kills), the Wolves didn’t lead in the opening set until 10-9.

The frame was tied as late as 16-16, and each time CHS started to pull away, thanks to Georges winning a tip battle or Masters flicking a winner over the heads of a pulled-in defense, South Whidbey rallied.

Down by five points, back within two, and then, ladies and gentlemen, we have Ms. Chernikoff getting, as my notes put it, “freakin’ savage.”

With the set hanging in the balance, the JV’s most dangerous assassin crunched a mammoth shot which parted the fleeing Falcons like Moses doing his thing at the Red Sea.

The Wolves almost repeated the scenario in the second set, with Mulholland holding court at the service line, Leavell floating tip winners, and Chernikoff abusing every last volleyball which dared to enter her air space.

South Whidbey fought hard, though, and found a little something extra to take the set and send things to a deciding showdown.

Where Chernikoff was waiting to whack ’em.

She got plenty of support, with Georges (three aces, four assists), Jump (four kills, three aces), Mulholland (two kills, four aces), and Alita Blouin (three digs, two assists) also filling up the stat sheet.

Masters (two kills, one ace), Leavell (four kills), Prince (two kills) and Meyers (two digs) added to the strong team effort, with Ivy Leedy providing advice and support while in street clothes on the bench.

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