Defense wins championships.
That old sports adage is usually thrown around while discussing football, but it fits for any sport.
When the league champion Coupeville High School volleyball team enters the district tournament this weekend, the Wolves’ lineup will include one the most talented defensive players in school history, Valen Trujillo.
Trujillo is the team’s libero, a defensive specialist who plays exclusively in the back line. The senior three-year starter owns the school record for most digs in a match, season and career. She is all talent, hustle and floor burns.
She and her backcourt mates do more than play defense; it is their responsibility to get the offense started with accurate passes that enable the setter to dish out assists to the big hitters.
Much of Trujillo’s work goes unnoticed. The players patrolling the net rattle off kills and put up formidable blocks that draw the “aahs” from the fans.
The lack of recognition doesn’t bother Trujillo: “I love my position; I wouldn’t want any other. Watching a three-point (perfect) pass lead to a kill, that’s my reward.”
Trujillo, Tiffany Briscoe and Lauren Rose are team captains. Trujillo says that comes with the responsibility to “encourage as much as possible in any situation and to be there for the team in whatever it needs.”
That also requires her to be “someone who is consistent, both in playing and in society.”
The Wolves are methodically checking off their team goals (one was to win the Olympic League title, which they accomplished). But that’s not enough. The team’s motto is “Not Satisfied,” and the Wolves want to add another treat to their season goody bag — the district title.
Coach Cory Whitmore says Trujillo is just the one to lead the charge: “Valen is a great player. She is a clear representative of everything I look for in a player: selfless, hardworking, full of heart and a leader both on the court and off. She goes above and beyond every day, and we are so lucky to have her on this team.”
Trujillo deflects the praise, pointing to the team’s cohesiveness, ability to handle stressful situations and resilience as its strengths.
“We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well.”
She noted that when the Wolves lost a league match late in the season to ruin their perfect Olympic League record, “we didn’t roll over and die.”
Trujillo would like the team “to go big” her senior year. That means win district and go to state.
The Wolves (8-1, 11-4) host the district tournament Saturday, Nov. 5.
Coupeville will meet the survivor of Chimacum-Bellevue Christian-Charles Wright Academy at 1:30 p.m. in the first round of the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
Cascade Christian, the Nisqually League champion, meets the winner of Seattle Christian-Klahowya in the other side of the bracket.
The winners face off at 3:30 for the district title.
The first-match losers also play at 3:30, and that winner will meet the championship game loser at 5:30 p.m. to determine the third and final state qualifier.
Trujillo, a 3.92 student, plans to attend George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., next year. She is the No. 1 singles player on the Coupeville tennis team, a member of the Honor Society, a representative on the executive board and a member of the Leo Club. To that list she would like to add district volleyball champion.
For those who don’t believe Trujillo and her teammates can reach that goal, there’s no doubt she can defend it.