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Avalon Renninger, Hall o’ Famer. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

I believe in Avalon Renninger.

There is something special about her.

She’s tough. She’s resilient. She’s scrappy. She’s undeniably brilliant.

But, maybe most of all, she is a bright, shining beacon for all Coupeville athletes – an example of someone who seemed to enjoy every moment she had in a Wolf uniform, and someone who did everything she could to make sure all of her teammates got to experience that same joy.

Avalon, one of the true headliners in the CHS Class of 2020, has been a class act every step of the way.

Put her on a soccer pitch, on the basketball hardwood, or on a tennis court, and she gave her all, every single time out.

Raining down buckets all day long.

I never saw Avalon go at half-speed, never witnessed her cheat herself or her team, never noticed her playing with anything other than full effort and wild abandon, no matter the score.

And I saw her play a lot of games over the past six years.

Once she pulled the uniform on, Avalon, one of the most genuinely kind people you will meet, became a crackling ball of energy unleashed.

On the soccer pitch, she led the Wolf girls program to its first-ever playoff win this past fall, a captain willing her squad to glory through words and actions.

But, to get there, Coupeville had to come up big late in the regular season, such as in a 1-0 win at home against Sultan.

Mollie Bailey was untouchable in goal that day, while Mallory Kortuem beat the howling wind and a hyped-up Turk defense to score the lone goal.

But it was Avalon, right there in the middle of the action on every play, who lit the fuse.

Her refusal to ever give in is captured in these paragraphs from the story I wrote that day:

Much like Renninger, the pluckiest of plucky players, the calm, cool, and eternally serene captain who got crunched in the face (fairly accidentally it seemed), and added her blood to the mix of fluids to decorate the Coupeville pitch over the years.

“I thought it was snot,” she told her dad after the game, as she moved her nose gingerly. “It was NOT!!”

Still, Renninger proved why she is among the most-revered of all Wolf athletes, anchoring her squad through the facial pain.

Afterwards, as she headed for the parking lot, her voice a mix of tiredness, pain, and pride, she remarked, “Yep, going home and doing some homework and getting some sleep. Maybe just some sleep … sleep sounds good.”

Avalon always led the celebration when teammates, such as big sis Sage, scored.

When we talk about Avalon and her prep sports career, we can talk stats.

She departs as the #5 scorer in Wolf girls soccer history, having rattled home 12 goals while raising her scoring totals across each of her four seasons.

On the basketball court, she followed a similar path, raising her scoring totals each of the three years she saw varsity action, while operating as the kind of “glue” player who contributes in so many more ways than just making the nets pop.

Swing out to the tennis court, where she teamed with Tia Wurzrainer, and Avalon was a consistent threat, a left-handed assassin with sweet groundstrokes, a serve which had some nicely nasty zing, and a willingness to play all day long.

The duo came up behind Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger, who were a #1 tandem across four seasons, then inherited the top slot as juniors.

This spring was supposed to offer Avalon and Tia a final shot at glory, a chance to make a run at duplicating the trip to state once enjoyed by big sis and her playing partner.

But while the COVID-19 pandemic has denied them a final season in the spotlight, it does nothing to erase the legacy they will leave behind.

Sisters from different misters – forming a deadly doubles duo with Tia Wurzrainer.

When we remember Avalon, it won’t be for her stats anyway, as solid as they are.

We will remember her for how she was always the first to throw an arm around a younger teammate, pull them in to her, and ease their nerves or quietly light a fire under them.

She gave away penalty kicks late in her soccer career, handing them to freshman girls.

The choice didn’t come from a coach, but from Avalon herself, as she handed responsibility to those who would follow her, and built their confidence, one “You got this!” at a time.

A lot of people want to be leaders.

Avalon just was one, in the manner she conducted herself, in the way she stoked an always-burning fire in her own soul, which made everyone around her want to do the same.

As you probably figured out way back at the beginning of this story, we’re here today to induct Miss Renninger into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, where she will join her sister.

After this, if you pop up to the Legends tab at the top of the blog, you’ll find her there, camped out with other big-timers.

This is hardly going to be the last award the multi-talented phenom will win, as she prepares for college and all the big-time accomplishments to come.

Avalon will head off into the outside world, but she will remain an enduring part of Cow Town’s heritage and history.

Gone, but never forgotten, flying down the pitch, scrambling on the hardwood, sliding across the tennis court.

Fighting with every last ounce of effort, beaming with joy (even when being rapped in the face with wayward elbows), a grin creasing her face, always looking for the best in everything.

“WE GOT THIS!!!!” she would tell anyone who would listen, and I never doubted her.

Why?

Because I believe in Avalon Renninger.

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CHS varsity softball leads off a group of pics shot earlier this spring. (Photos by JohnPhotos.net)

Wolf track and field fills up the bleachers.

Varsity soccer takes the field.

Baseball claims the diamond.

JV softball, ready to pile up the runs.

JV soccer defends its net.

Tennis is on point.

The season is on hiatus, but the photos have been snapped.

With the coronavirus pandemic having forced the closure of Washington state schools, Coupeville athletes sit and wait to see if they will get to chase their spring dreams.

But back before the shutdown, wanderin’ paparazzi John Fisken bounced from field to field and captured the team pics seen above.

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Jazmine Franklin (front) and McKenzie Bailey, during their days as high school tennis aces. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They were awesome together. They were awesome apart.

And now, three-plus years after graduation from Coupeville High School, Jazmine Franklin and McKenzie Bailey continue to grow in their awesomeness.

The former is an accomplished artist who’s a step away from breaking big, while the latter is on her way to being the coolest teacher a new generation of little kids could hope to meet in the classroom.

While both continue to soar on a daily basis as they chase their dreams, today we’re here to primarily talk about what they accomplished as Wolf athletes.

It is a sports blog, after all, and we’re way overdue on inducting the dazzling duo into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

So, let’s rectify that oversight and crack open the door on our digital hall of wonders, sending them into hallowed company as a team.

After this, when you wander up to the top of the blog and peek under the Legends tab, you’ll find Franklin and Bailey exactly where they’ve always deserved to be.

Both did it all, and did it extremely well, during their time in the red and black.

Franklin was an accomplished cheerleader and a class leader, while Bailey bopped her way through volleyball and basketball, while also being at the forefront of everything the Class of 2016 student leaders accomplished.

But, it was when they came together, picking up tennis rackets and laying waste to anyone foolhardy enough to wander into their path, where they sparkled like never before.

“Killer Kenny” attacks.

“Girl’s crazy … but I kind of dig it.”

CHS tennis coach Ken Stange referred to the fun-loving, hard-hitting duo as Salt ‘n Pepa, and they were his go-to whenever he needed a crucial win.

It might have been easy for their play to be overlooked, as their hard-court careers virtually mirrored those of Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger, who were a #1 doubles team for four straight seasons, culminating in a long run at the state tourney their senior season.

Playing in the #2 slot never dinged their shine, however, as they methodically raked their way through other teams, while helping their teammates raise their own games.

When he looked back at the first 15 years of his career as leader of the Wolf tennis programs, Stange tabbed Franklin and Bailey as one of the best doubles duos he had coached.

He appreciated their ability to blister foes from big and small schools alike, and how they went about accomplishing the feat.

Over the course of their prep careers, the duo went an eye-popping 28-4 when teamed up together.

That’s a brain-melting .875 winning percentage, a number few, if any, Wolf athletes have come remotely close to hitting.

Always game for a photo op…

But deadly efficient on the court. (Ken Stange photo)

Franklin and Bailey were leaders on and off the court, a combined second voice for their coach, and they capped their prep careers by being “excellent team captains.”

Stange has seen (and coached) hundreds of young women and men during his decade-and-a-half-plus at CHS, but Salt ‘n Pepa remain among his favorites, for their skill, their fight, and their attitudes.

“They were about winning and fun, in that order,” he said. “They lived out loud and I loved it!”

 

To see (and possibly purchase) Franklin’s artwork, pop over to:

https://jzmn-originals.myshopify.com/

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Bree Daigneault being Bree Daigneault. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Daigneault prepares to launch a serve.

Some quality time with lil’ sis Noelle.

Bree Daigneault will save the world some day.

She’s that smart, that committed, that kind and caring, that environmentally-conscious, that much of a superhero disguised as a college student.

Two years after she graduated from Coupeville High School, Daigneault is off in the world, doing her best to light a fire under the rest of us, but in a really polite, friendly way.

During her days at CHS, when I used to watch her play soccer and tennis for the Wolves, it often amazed me how chipper she could be, win or loss.

Whether she demolished a foe on the tennis court, or went down after putting up a ferocious fight, when Daigneault departed the scene of the battle, something unusual always happened.

The other young woman playing against her, often a rival she had never met before that day, would walk off the court practically floating on air.

Even when they had just spent two hours trying, and failing, to stop Daigneault from cruising to a victory.

It’s because the player rockin’ the red and black, in between whipping forehands and crushing overheads, always dispensed a constant flow of friendly banter.

Daigneault showered her opponents with compliments, and not a single one ever seemed false or calculated.

That just was, and is, her personality. Open, friendly, receptive to all, and back to the two words which I think probably describe Bree better than any others – kind and caring.

That’s ingrained in her nature, so she complimented her opponent on their shot-making ability (even when she had just short-circuited it), their style, their fashion sense, and their intelligence.

There was one moment, when she faced off with Chimacum’s Renee Woods, sort of the off-Island mirror image of Daigneault, and the universe almost folded in on itself as Compliment Bowl went nuclear.

I don’t remember who won the match, but I do remember it felt so perfect, yet so alien, from my own days smacking tennis balls back at Tumwater High School.

In the late ’80s, the T-Birds tried to paste our own teammates with well-placed shots as much as possible, leaving precious little time to even think about complimenting players from Aberdeen or Olympia.

Probably why none of us went on to cure cancer or solve the world’s environmental problems…

But Daigneault is part of a different generation, and she was always at the forefront of things during her CHS days.

She was a regular presence on the theatrical stage, adept at drama and comedy in equal measure, was a student body rep to the School Board, and finished in the top 10 graduates for the Class of ’17.

Along the way, Bree found time to run the soccer pitch and slide across the tennis court, and did both as a polished varsity vet.

While she might not hold any school records, she was a vital part of both programs, both for her skills and her temperament.

Daigneault could launch shots into the back of the soccer goal, or zing winners down the line before a rival could reverse course and get to the tennis ball.

But, ultimately, she’ll be remembered by sports fans for many of the same reasons she’ll be remembered by theater addicts and education nuts.

Bree is, has been, and will likely always be, one of those truly amazing people who makes everyone else’s lives a little better by gracing the world we share.

Highly-intelligent, graceful, funny, a strong young woman with deep convictions and a burning desire to help others, whether by complimenting them or working to improve their lives, she is a rare one.

Daigneault has pulled in her share of honors, and that won’t stop anytime soon.

Today, we swing open the doors of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame and induct her into our lil’ on-line community.

She goes in for her athletic ability across multiple sports, but also for the way she played her games – with fire, with passion, and with deep love and respect for her teammates, coaches, and opponents.

After this, you’ll find Bree at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

In the grand scheme of things, this sports induction will probably be a minor honor for a young woman who will likely win all the real-world honors.

I said all of them!

She’s gonna do big things, change lives for the better.

You can take that to Vegas, bet the mortgage on it, and go to sleep with a smile on your face cause that’s as close to a sure thing as we have.

However her coming years play out, I hope that Bree, occasionally, will look back on her time in a Wolf uniform and smile.

I hope she’s as proud of herself as we all are of her.

And that she realizes with a word here, an action there, she made others smile, made them want to be better, made them want to treat others with as much kindness and care.

If people were paintings, Bree Daigneault would be a masterpiece, treasured and priceless.

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Alita “The Assassin” Blouin heads to Coupeville High School this fall, ready to turn hard work into success. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They call her “The Assassin” for a reason.

Off the court, Alita Blouin is a strong, smart, highly-motivated young woman.

On the court, she’s all those things — and also a stone-cold killer.

Of all the athletes headed to Coupeville High School this fall, Blouin is the one I most feel confident in hailing as a star.

She has talent, which she has shown on the volleyball and basketball court, and will soon bring to the tennis court, but it’s more than that.

During her middle school days, Blouin showed a fieriness, an unwillingness to back down, which is too often missing in Coupeville athletes.

That was key to success in volleyball, where she was a leader, and in basketball, where she sliced ‘n diced rivals both as a passer and shooter for a Wolf 8th grade team which went undefeated.

You can read more of my thoughts on the rare qualities Blouin brings to Wolf sports by popping over and reading an article from last year:

https://coupevillesports.com/2018/12/30/heart-of-a-wolf-heart-of-a-champion/

Now, no one can truly know if middle school success will translate to high school stardom.

Sometimes everything clicks, other times life intrudes.

Most of all, it’s not fair to put too much pressure on a young woman yet to attend her first class as a CHS freshman.

But Blouin, with a solid support crew headed up by parents Shawn and June, and younger brother Ryan, seems built for success.

And it all starts with her positive attitude.

“My strengths as an athlete are taking criticism and applying it to how I play,” Blouin said. “I also always look for a way to give one of my teammates a good opportunity to succeed and work together in the process.”

She’s very close to many of those teammates, which helps her both be a leader and work together for the greater good of the team.

“Being an athlete helps me make a stronger bond with my teammates/friends,” Blouin said. “It helps me bring out my competitive nature.

“And playing sports is just overall really fun.”

Meshing well with the other young women on the court is one of Blouin’s primary goals, and it extends not only to those her own age, but to the upperclassmen she will soon join.

“My goal as a high-school athlete is to create stronger bonds with my older teammates, so that we can all have chemistry while we play,” she said.

“And also, so I can learn from them, since they have more experience than I do.”

While she’s already achieved some athletic success, Blouin isn’t content to rest on her laurels.

Instead, she has a clear vision of the future, and what she and her teammates can accomplish over the next four years, if they continue to grow, both as individuals, and in a team framework.

“I would like to work on my self-confidence,” Blouin said. “Many times I miss out on an opportunity simply because I don’t believe in my own abilities.

“Also, I would like to win, and maybe make it to state for at least one of my sports.”

While she enjoys basketball, and is looking forward to trying out tennis, the first high school sport she will play claims the biggest part of her heart.

“My favorite sport is volleyball, because when you are playing, you get rushes of adrenaline during rallies and this rush of energy makes the game so exciting,” Blouin said.

“Especially when the point is won and everyone is cheering, it just makes me really happy.”

When she’s not competing or practicing, Blouin also excels in the classroom, enjoying art, math, and computer design.

She helped create the CMS yearbook as an 8th grader, spends time painting and drawing at home, and will bravely tackle both geometry and algebra at the same time during her freshman year.

As she makes the jump to high school, Blouin knows she isn’t alone.

Her family and friends, many of whom play sports alongside her, will always be there to provide support at crucial moments.

“My teammates have had one of the biggest impacts on the person I am today,” she said. “Mostly (fellow basketball starters) Maddie (Georges), Gwen (Gustafson), Carolyn (Lhamon), and Nezi (Keiper).

“We all push each other and help each other improve as athletes,” Blouin added. “We are all very competitive with each other and that is why we are competitive when we play in games.”

Before and after she steps on the floor, she gets a different kind of support from her family, with extended members, from grandparents to cousins, often filling a chunk of the stands at her games.

“My parents also have always believed in me since day one,” Blouin said. “They always tell me what I do well and what I can improve on next time.

“Without them I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be an athlete.”

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