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Archive for the ‘Girls Tennis’ Category

Payton Aparicio, coming to a Hall o’ Fame near you. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Maybe it was fate.

Payton Aparicio springs from a family rich in sports success, from her parents and grandparents to aunts and uncles and cousins galore.

From the Stuurmans trunk in the middle, to the Bepler and Aparicio branches folding around the base, the ol’ family tree is one of the strongest you will find in Coupeville athletics.

But, as talented as her relatives are, I’m going to go out on my own limb here and say Payton is the best the family has produced.

A soaring star in both volleyball and tennis, who could have been a basketball sensation as well if she hadn’t given up the sport after middle school, Ms. Aparicio is an extremely easy pick for induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

So, where that’s where we’re placing her today, as we swing open the doors and welcome her into our lil’ digital institution.

After this, you’ll find her at the top of the blog under the Legends tab, sharing space with dad Mitch.

Payton was somewhat deceptive as an athlete.

I know she worked hard, in practices and games, but she has a rare quality of making every action look effortless.

She was the very definition of smooth, regardless of the sport, almost catching you by surprise when you realized how much of an impact she was having.

And that impact was major.

When Aparicio was named Coupeville High School’s Female Athlete of the Year shortly before graduation last spring, it was a lifetime achievement prize in many ways.

Her senior athletic year had been beyond-solid, but when coaches voted, I am confident they were also looking back at the previous three years.

Remembering her precision, her power, and, this is huge, the manner in which she always carried herself.

Aparicio displayed a quiet confidence, rarely (if ever) appearing shaken by the magnitude of the moment.

Who knows if her brain was yelling madly and bouncing off the walls when she went to serve for a match. If so, she never let us see anything other than a serene, locked-in, spirit.

On the volleyball court, Aparicio could soar to the roof and smash with the best of them, while also being nimble enough to scrape dig after dig off the floor.

Her serving was impeccable, deadly and consistent, and she graduated with the school record for most aces in a single match.

From a freshman who blasted a ball into the rafters at South Whidbey, and got the ball to rest on a beam and never come back down (it may still be up there), to a senior who was team MVP on the first Coupeville squad to go to state in more than a decade, Aparicio was a quiet killer.

Her laser focus, mad skills, and assassin-like demeanor translated beautifully to the tennis court, as well.

From the moment they first stepped on the CHS court as freshmen, she and Sage Renninger were the #1 Wolf doubles duo, and they never, ever let anyone come close to taking their title.

Peppering foe after foe, they mixed precision shot-making with raw power, like when Aparicio pegged a rival with a match-winning shot, inflicting physical and emotional pain with one superbly-placed smash.

The duo ended their tennis, and high school careers, with a 4th place finish at the state tourney, winning three of four matches in the Eastern Washington heat.

Their only loss was a tough three-set affair against a private school duo who went on to win a second-straight title, and no one in the tourney came closer to upending the champs than Aparicio and Renninger.

The 4th place finish was the second-best in CHS tennis history, behind just Mindy Horr and Taniel Lamb’s 2nd place showing in 2005, and it’s fitting all four of those standout netters now share space in the Hall o’ Fame.

When I look back on Payton’s prep sports career, I see talent, I see commitment, I see accomplishment, I see a young woman who always put team first.

What do I see? I see one of the best to ever wear a Wolf uniform, that’s what I see.

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Sage Renninger, the newest addition to the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Underrated in the extreme.

Over the past four years, Sage Renninger has been, without a doubt, one of the best athletes to wear a Coupeville uniform.

Graceful, hard-nosed, a quiet warrior who let her play do the talking for her, she carved out her own path, and it was a very successful one.

Having given up basketball after middle school, Renninger showcased her athletic skills a bit off the beaten track, starring in soccer and tennis.

The first of those is a sport in which my base of knowledge is, admittedly, limited.

I don’t understand a lot of the intricacies of the “beautiful game,” and often times revert back to frustration over the sport being satisfied with ties, and the number of times a play is just starting to get interesting, only to have the ball nick a random knee and shoot out of bounds.

I am not the person who is going to sit here and rhapsodize about the mystical joy of fútbol.

That being said, I can, and do, appreciate the level of commitment it takes to even play the sport, much less be a star.

And Renninger was a true star on the pitch.

Through four years in a Wolf uniform, which culminated with being a captain her senior year, she was as steady as they come.

Renninger could net you goals (the one part of soccer idiots like myself understand), but she was also a rock for Coupeville, controlling the pace and flow of the game.

She didn’t scream and holler, at least not on the pitch, but her teammates leaned in to hear her words, and they responded.

It takes a deft hand to be a true leader on a sports team, to command respect with your play, your attitude and an unshakable belief that you and your teammates will find a way to success, no matter the odds.

Few leaders have been as effective, or as well-liked by their teammates, as Renninger.

So, while I freely admit I don’t always understand soccer on a deeper level, I do recognize greatness, and there is no doubt in my mind Sage is one of the best the CHS girls program has been blessed to claim as one of its own.

Her other sport, tennis, is exactly the opposite, and exactly the same.

It’s the opposite, in, that having played the sport myself during my Tumwater High School days, I see the strategy behind the shots and have a far greater base of knowledge and appreciation for what is playing out.

And it’s the same, because Renninger, just as she did on the soccer pitch, was a serene, high-achieving wonder on the hard court.

She and partner Payton Aparicio were the #1 doubles team from the moment they first stepped on the court as freshmen, and they never let the crown slip from atop their heads.

Over the course of four years, they were, quite simply, the gold standard, the best Wolf duo since Mindy Horr and Taniel Lamb came within a handful of points of winning the 2005 state championship.

Renninger, who brought a potent mix of power and pace to the court, possesses a rare intangible which is often found in top tennis players.

In short, she abided.

By that, I mean, she never got too high when success came her way, and never got too low when defeat made a rare appearance.

Watching Renninger exit the court after a match, whether during her freshman season or her senior campaign, it always looked the same.

Perhaps a small smile, sometimes a more-enthusiastic racket bump with Aparicio, but always under control, always giving little away to her opponents.

She circled her foes like a shark, and watch a shark as it moves – there is often a calmness to its movements right before an attack.

When the death ‘n destruction came, her racket snapping off winners, Renninger was brutally efficient, and it was beautiful to see.

She and Aparicio closed their prep careers this past spring with a phenomenal postseason run, eventually winning three of four matches at the state tourney and claiming 4th place.

The duo’s only loss was an epic three-set defeat, in which things were decided by just a handful of points, and came to the private school girls who would end the tourney with their second-straight state title.

Afterwards, Renninger shared the moment with Aparicio, with their families, and with CHS coach Ken Stange.

Having played two days in blazing heat, she looks tired but satisfied in photos from that day. She also looks, as she always did, like a winner.

Renninger didn’t always get the headlines others in her graduating class did, but she won as much respect from us as any Wolf of her generation.

So today, we open the doors to the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, and welcome her into an elite fraternity.

In the days and months and years after this, you’ll find Renninger hanging out at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab.

Because that’s exactly what she was, in her own self-contained way – a legend.

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Jacki Ginnings was the “queen of the three-hour match.” (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Jazmine Franklin teamed with McKenzie Bailey to form “Salt ‘n Pepa,” maybe the most underrated doubles team of the last 13 years.

Girls tennis is arguably the most-successful sport in Coupeville High School history.

A big part of that run of league titles and postseason glory has come during Ken Stange’s 13 years (and counting) at the helm of the program.

The Wolf net guru returns for part 3 of our five-part series on CHS coaches extolling the virtues of the best players they’ve seen.

Let’s head out to the court and listen to him reminisce.

While the boys’ team has had some success, winning some league titles and even sending some players to state, the boys’ team has always had to compete with football.

Football is the big daddy of male high school sports, and I think boys are more likely to grow up dreaming of Friday Night Lights than they are of Center Court at Wimbledon.

The girls, on the other hand, have made tennis one of the most successful athletic programs at CHS.

Even with the constant onslaught of state track stars and the rise of CHS’s wicked good fastpitch team, tennis has remained strong.

We used to routinely have 20+ players; I think we had 28 one year.

Although our numbers have dwindled (we had 16 players last year), we ended our four-year run in the 1A Olympic League with four league titles.

I’ve had some amazing players on the girls’ team.

Picking this list was only easier because I took the liberty of adding two more singles players than I did for the guys.

#1 Singles — Julia Sierra Castano (exchange student from Spain – 2010)

Julia turned 16 a few days before she competed in the state singles tourney, back in 2010.

When she showed up in the fall of 2009, I heard rumors of an exchange student who had game.

That fall, I saw her hitting with some of the boys while they were getting ready for practice one day. She looked consistent, but she wasn’t hitting the ball hard.

I was hoping to see a little more ability, considering she had told me about her club training that she had back home in Spain.

Once the spring began, she quietly established herself as the top singles player, narrowly edging out her closest competition.

I just kept thinking she had more than what she was showing. I was persistent in asking her about it, and she was usually sheepish about the subject.

Eventually, she confided that she didn’t want to showboat for her teammates. She wanted to be liked.

That was fine, but I told her that I really wanted her to beat the crap out of her opponents.

She did, winning every single regular season match. She won the league tourney. At the Seattle district tourney, she finally lost a match, but not before she qualified for state.

She went 1-2 in Yakima, competing well in a very strong field.

To this day, her forehand is one of the most ferocious shots I’ve ever seen.

We used to bash the ball back and forth, and many times, I watched her humiliate her opponent with her weapon.

It’s hard to believe she was just 15 for most of that season. She was smart, kind, well-liked, and a beast of a tennis player.

#2 Singles — (tie) — Amanda d’ Almeida (Class of 2013), Valen Trujillo (’17), and Emily Burchfield (’12)

Amanda is the only female to appear on this list twice. I guess if I were to make an all-CHS mixed doubles team, it’d be Aaron Curtin and Amanda.

Anyhow, Amanda, Valen and Emily had similar tennis career arcs.

All three put together impressive multi-year runs as singles players, and all fell just shy of state, but were playing in incredibly tough districts and would likely have qualified if they played anywhere else in the state.

Amanda, Valen, and Emily put up impressive four-year careers as CHS tennis players, racking up tons of wins

Amanda as a junior and senior was probably the most physically-fit athlete I’ve ever coached.

She looked like a professional athlete and even though she wasn’t imposing in size, she looked like the type of person who had been training for a long time.

Soccer was her main sport, but she had played tennis as a ninth grader and found huge success as a doubles player.

By her junior year, she’d hit the singles court and was making waves.

I remember not being able to hit balls that Amanda couldn’t run down and return to me. She was one of the best retrievers I ever coached.

What’s more, she constantly worked to improve all aspects of her game.

She took her doubles knowledge from earlier, and added the ground strokes that allowed her to hang with the big girls.

She ended her career as one of the most solid players during my time at CHS.

Valen had everything … but size. Haha.

I first met Valen when she was in 7th grade. She wasn’t in my class, but she introduced herself anyway because she was just that polite.

I had her in Yearbook class and multiple English classes. I got to know her and her family.

When she came out to play as a 9th grader, she had already played a bit, she was very athletic, and we both clicked in a perfect player/coach way. We just got each other.

Valen was relentless in her pursuit of good tennis. She kept at it.

She was probably 5′ 1″ but she still found a way to have a big serve. She ran every ball down and she never gave up on points. She did it all with unbridled enthusiasm, too.

After matches, I often said, “Win (or lose) a match and make a friend,” because she more often than not connected with her opponent.

She won gobs of matches, both as a doubles player in ninth grade, and as a singles player for her final three years.

She was also most likely to bake goods for her teammates and coach.

Emily was indomitable.

She was an aggressive soccer player and she translated that aggression to the tennis court nicely. She had pretty good game, too.

I was pumped for her senior season because I thought she had an outside shot at qualifying for state in singles.

About a week before the beginning of her senior year, a vehicle struck her while she was riding a bicycle in Portland.

She had broken her back, and things looked dire. It was originally thought that she may not be able to walk, yet she defied her doctors’ prognosis.

King-5 interviewed her and they came out to Coupeville.

When she finally got to return to school and I found out she intended to play tennis, despite all the new hardware she was sporting in her skeleton, I was amazed.

I tried to imagine the kind of discomfort and pain she was experiencing on a daily basis.

Then the season happened. We had to manage her playing because of the accident.

She had had a previous surgery on her ankle from a soccer injury. That injury was aggravated by the accident and her ankle would swell up to the size of a cantaloupe every time she played.

I remember watching her plant her foot and run during points, and seeing her pain-tightened face as she did it.

It was so impressive. She seemed to defy normal human tolerance for pain.

She won the league singles title that year and made it to within one match of qualifying for state. Had she not been injured, she would likely have qualified for state.

Seriously, they could make a movie about Emily.

# 3 Singles — (tie) — Allie Hanigan (’14) and Jacki Ginnings (’15)

Allie and Jacki each took their turn at #1 singles and they both were quite dominant, helping their teams secure titles.

Allie was long and graceful on the court, so much so that I sometimes accused her of not trying hard enough, but she always said she was giving it her all.

Eventually, I was watching her play a match from a different angle. I realized just how fast she was.

She looked slow because she made it look too easy. She anticipated and zoom, she was gone!

What’s more, she was tall, so she could reach just about everything inside the fence.

When Allie left, Jacki assumed the #1 spot.

Unlike Allie, Jacki did not make it look easy. Quite the opposite, actually.

She was the queen of the three-hour match.

Several times, she would be in the first wave of matches and would not finish until the final JV match had ended.

Luckily for us, she was usually on the top end of the drawn-out affair.

She was a grinder, never afraid to play the long point to outlast her opponent. She was tough as nails to boot, so if she lost a long point, she easily put it in her rear view mirror.

#1 Doubles — Payton Aparacio (’18)/Sage Renninger (’18)

Easily the best doubles team I ever coached.

They finished 4th in a loaded bracket at state last season, capping a stellar four-year career as the top CHS doubles duo.

When I think of who made it look easy, I think of Payton and Sage, and I can only think of them together, much the same as their classmates, Joey (Lippo) and Will (Nelson).

They were singular. They just made it look effortless.

They were smiling assassins, and they could giggle in the most tense moments.

As ninth graders, they said they wanted to play together.

I immediately saw state somewhere in their futures, so I committed to putting two of my best into one spot.

There were four pairs of incumbent players who planned on beating the young Sage and Payton, and pair by pair, those four duos found themselves somewhere else on the ladder.

That first year was difficult. They took their lumps, but picked up experience.

They picked up the wins as sophomores and juniors, and came close to making it to state.

Their senior year was a thing of magic. They lost a few key regular season matches to teams that went on to qualify for A or AA state.

With each of those losses came an increased focus in subsequent matches.

They also had a helper named Tezra who trained with them after practice. That work paid off with a 4th place finish at state.

Not many players get to finish their careers with a win. Sage and Payton did just that.

What made their final season even better was how they took control of the captains’ reins, leading their team to a fourth-straight league title. Their impact will be lasting.

I’ll also never forget how Payton ended the district semifinal match by hitting her opponent in the face with a wicked ground stroke.

#2 Doubles — (tie) — Amanda d’Almeida (’13)/Jessica Riddle (’13) and Hannah Merrell (’09)/Megan Monroe (’09)

Amanda and Jessica were doubles partners for their ninth and tenth grade years, before Jessica moved to Anacortes to finish her final two years of high school.

Although new to tennis as ninth graders, Amanda and Jessica were both ridiculously athletic. Both went on to play college soccer and volleyball, respectively.

They picked up the game very fast.

I tucked them away at the bottom varsity doubles spot for the entire season while they learned the game and grew more confident.

We had two doubles spots available in the league tourney that year, so I let them challenge their teammates for the second spot and they won.

At league, they beat their other teammates to win the title, before bowing out at district.

As sophomores, they stormed through the league, advancing to districts. They fell one match shy of state, but their performance was memorable.

Unfortunately, their time as partners ended, but it was a great run nonetheless.

When I took over the CHS tennis program, the entire varsity team had graduated.

Hannah and Megan led a strong group of ninth graders that came out for my first season.

They made girls’ tennis important and meaningful. They legitimized the sport.

Because of them, I enjoyed several years of 20+ players, many of whom were serious about learning and winning.

Another soccer/volleyball duo, Hannah and Megan grew to love tennis.

It worked out for them because they qualified for state during their junior year – the first state qualifiers I coached at CHS.

Their passion to learn, win, and lead their team was admirable, and they set the stage for many years to come after their graduation.

#3 doubles —McKenzie Bailey (’16)/Jazmine Franklin (’16)

McKenzie and Jazmine are the only players on either the boys’ or girls’ list who did not play the majority of their matches in the #1 spot.

McKenzie and Jazmine, or Salt ‘n Pepa, as they were known to their teammates, played behind Payton and Sage.

Had they played on just about any other team, McKenzie and Jazmine would have been a solid #1 doubles team.

They went something like 28-4 over their junior and senior seasons, and served as excellent captains as well.

They were about winning and fun, in that order. They lived out loud and I loved it.

#4 doubles (work in progress) — Avalon Renninger (’20)/Tia Wurzrainer (’20)

Av and Tia are the only active players on this list.

They are slated to play #1 doubles this year after a strong showing at last year’s district tourney.

They are a work in progress, and after next year and the year after, they could be on top of this list, or they could be off this list.

The smart money is putting  them higher on the list.

Av and Tia enter their junior year having had the experience of seeing Payton and Sage’s example as well as having been Payton and Sage’s punching bag.

Av and Tia have grown. If they continue to grow, and I think they will, they could make a run at a state medal very soon. Time will tell.

Tia is as steady as they come, both in her game and in her attitude. She is a calm ship captain.

Avalon wears her heart on her sleeve, and I can most certainly identify with that. She has one of the highest levels of want that I’ve ever seen.

The future is bright for Av and Tia, and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.

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Coupeville seniors Sage Renninger (left) and Payton Aparicio placed 4th at the state tennis tourney, bringing a smile to coach Ken Stange’s face. (Photos by CoupevillePaparazzi.com)

Celebrating the best finish by Wolf tennis players in 13 seasons.

Coupeville poses with South Whidbey’s Alison Papritz (left) and Mary Zisette. (Ken Stange photo)

Four years of hard work, of sweat, of big wins and tough losses, of leadership and friendship.

The whole magical ride came to a close Saturday morning for Coupeville High School seniors Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger, and it ended on an especially sweet note.

The duo, who were doubles partners from day one, bounced Elizabeth Grubb and Katie Keifer of Jenkins (Chewelah) 6-2, 6-3 to claim 4th place at the 1A/2B/1B state tennis tourney in Yakima.

The Wolves won three of four matches at the two-day event, falling only to the defending state champs in a three-set rumble.

The first CHS girl netters to medal in 13 seasons, they captured the second-best showing of any Wolf tennis players in the modern era, girls or boys.

Aparicio and Renninger stand with Taniel Lamb and Mindy Horr, who placed 2nd in doubles in 2005.

It was a great day, and weekend, for Whidbey tennis.

In a sport dominated by private schools, South Whidbey and Coupeville, both small, rural, public institutions, claimed 2nd and 4th in doubles.

Falcons Mary Zisette and Alison Papritz won their semifinal Saturday over Cascade Christian, then fell 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 in the final.

The tourney champs, for the second-straight year, were Amanda Lin and Maria Russinovich of Overlake, who outlasted Aparicio and Renninger in a three-set quarterfinal match.

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Tennis players Sage Renninger (left) and Payton Aparicio (right) went to Yakima for state, while track star Lauren Bayne headed to Cheney. (Photo by CoupevillePaparazzi.com)

It’s been a long time coming.

Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger were in kindergarten the last time a Coupeville High School girls tennis player brought a medal home from the state tourney.

The year was 2005 and Mindy Horr and Taniel Lamb finished 2nd, losing a three-set, genteel brawl with a pair of private school pros in the championship match.

Jump forward 13 years and it was time for a new generation of Wolf netters to sparkle.

Capping a splendid four-year run in which they have played together from day one of their freshman year, Aparicio and Renninger put on a show Friday in Yakima.

Winning two of three matches at the 1A/2B/1B state championships, with their only loss a narrow defeat to the defending state champs, the Wolf duo clinched a chance to play Saturday in a medal match.

After enduring three matches, and eight sets, Friday, Aparicio and Renninger will play just one match Saturday.

They’ll take the court at 8:30 AM to play Elizabeth Grubb and Katie Keifer of Jenkins (Chewelah) in the 4th/7th place match.

To get to Saturday’s showcase, Coupeville’s #1 tandem showcased their quiet grit, opening with a 6-4, 6-3 straight-sets win over Sierra Rothlisberger and Madeline Peebles of Chelan.

That propelled Aparicio and Renninger into the quarterfinals, where they faced off with Overlake’s Amanda Lin and Maria Russinovich, who captured the state title a year ago.

Not flinching in the face of a team with a gaudy resume, the Wolves forced the champs to play a full three sets, before falling 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

With two matches under their belts, Aparicio and Renninger squared off with Kendra Gay and Gillian Hartman of Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) and dropped the first set 6-3.

Needing to win to avoid elimination, the Wolf duo rallied to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-4, bouncing their Eastern Washington foes.

Coupeville tennis coach Ken Stange has put 13 years and 26 seasons into the Wolf program. While he’s had boys medal before, he had narrowly missed in previous trips with female netters.

Until Friday, when the Wolves showed the locals they didn’t travel across the state just for the scenery.

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