Posts Tagged ‘Ken Stange’

CHS tennis ace Mary Milnes loves the sunshine, but she’d also love to get to play a real match. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Avalon Renninger gets limbered up for dropping wicked backhands.

Cecilia Camarena is one of several Wolves ready to make their hard-court debut.

Emily Fiedler is ready to lunge into a new season.

Girls tennis still exists at Coupeville High School.

It might not seem that way recently, as the netters have been largely relegated to the sidelines while other Wolf spring sports programs garner the spotlight.

A rain-out cost CHS tennis an early-season non-conference match, and, by the time they take the court Wednesday, Mar. 27, hosting King’s in the season and league opener, other sports will have a huge head start.

Barring weather issues or other shenanigans, boys soccer will have seven games under their belt, baseball will be playing its seventh game that same day, softball will have six games on the win/loss record, and even track and field will have two meets in the books.

With very few non-league options out there this spring, the Coupeville netters have a pared-down nine-match schedule, facing each of their four North Sound Conference foes — South Whidbey, Friday Harbor, King’s and Granite Falls – twice.

So, the pics above are both a reminder Wolf netters are still hard at work, and that soon, they will get to play someone other than their own teammates.


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Veteran CHS tennis coach Ken Stange is recovering from spinal fusion surgery after a nasty fall. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Ken Stange has fallen, but you can help him get back up.

The longtime Coupeville High School tennis coach is recovering from spinal fusion surgery to repair an L1 vertebrae fracture suffered in a nasty fall off a ladder.

The good news is doctors tell Stange he can eventually be back on the tennis court, both as a coach and player.

The bad news is during much of his recovery, he won’t be able to work.

After many years as a teacher, Stange purchased Bailey’s Corner Store in Clinton in 2015.

One of Whidbey’s top tennis players, he has taken the lessons learned from his own on-court action and used them to guide the Wolf netters.

With 27 seasons in the book (14 years with the CHS boys and headed for year #14 with the girls this spring), he is the second longest-tenured active head coach in Coupeville.

Stange trails just Randy King, who put in 20 seasons with Wolf boys basketball and is headed towards a 14th year of running CHS track.

To offer a helping hand to Coupeville’s net guru, pop over to:


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Drake Borden shared MVP honors as CHS tennis brought its season to an end with an awards banquet. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Jaschon Baumann (left) and Tiger Johnson were hailed for playing all four years.

Thus endeth the fall.

Coupeville High School boys tennis put a final bow on the season Thursday, handing out letters and awards at a season-ending banquet.

First-year player James Wood led the way, copping Most Improved and Most Inspirational, while Drake Borden and Jakobi Baumann shared MVP honors.

Mason Grove and Jakobi Baumann were hailed as Captains, while Jakobi, twin brother Jaschon Baumann and Tiger Johnson received four-year awards for making the complete run with Wolf coach Ken Stange.


Varsity letter winners:

Andrew Aparicio
Jakobi Baumann
Jaschon Baumann
Drake Borden
Jacob Burke
Zach Ginnings
Mason Grove
Tiger Johnson
Thane Peterson
Koby Schreiber
Harris Sinclair
James Wood

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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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John McClarin and doubles partner Joseph Wedekind worked hard over four years to become a powerful duo. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Few shots got past Sebastian Davis during his days on the court.

Grab a racket and get ready to rumble.

Part 2 of our 5-part series focusing on Coupeville coaches giving their side of the argument on the best players to wear the red and black, arrives almost as quickly as one of Aaron Curtin’s serves.

This time out, CHS tennis coach Ken Stange pops by to give the lowdown on the players he would want on his roster for a winner-take-all showdown.

With 13 years at the helm of the Wolf boys and girls net programs (26 seasons total), he’s seen more than his share of players.

But let’s have him tell us about it:

Here is my All-CHS Boys’ Tennis Team (2005-present):

#1 Singles — Aaron Curtin (Class of 2015)

Aaron was the youngest of the Curtin family. His brothers played for me, too.

Long, fast, strong, and intelligent, Aaron is far and away the best male singles player I’ve ever had the chance to coach at CHS.

In his senior year, he took 8th place at the state singles tourney. As a junior, he made it to state in doubles.

He’s the only player I’ve coached to go to state twice.

He was a quiet leader and garnered a great deal of respect from his teammates.

There haven’t been too many Wolf players that could push me around on the singles court; Aaron is one of them.

One of the things that separated Aaron from the competition was his ability to raise his game in the most crucial moments. He was never afraid of taking the risk to hit a big shot when the score was working against him.

With his quiet leadership, he inspired other great players like Joseph Wedekind, John McClarin, Joey Lippo, and William Nelson.

He came from a family of tennis players and he added a great deal to the CHS tennis family.

One of my greatest tennis memories of Aaron was when he played his qualifying match to go to state in singles.

He had already beaten his opponent from Vashon, but a rules technicality forced him to play the match again. He was not happy about having to prove it, but he went out and did just that.

It took almost three hours to win that match, but he did it.

#2 Singles — Ben Hayes (’11)

Six-feet-five of pure athleticism and love for sport. That is how I define Ben as a tennis player.

He was graceful on the soccer pitch and basketball court, but in tennis, he flat-out dominated his opponents.

He was the first CHS tennis player to take a set of singles from me.

Before Ben, I had never coached a player as talented as him. He just made it look so easy, and he frustrated his opponents to no end.

He had a huge serve, unbelievable speed, and a ton of want. That made for a deadly combination.

Back then, our district tennis tourney was the toughest in the state, but he still managed to come one match shy of qualifying for state. In most other years, he would have made it to Yakima.

I bet that even if he hasn’t picked up a racket since he graduated from high school, he would still beat the pants off of most players.

#3 Singles — (tie) — Connor Tasoff (’10) and Sebastian Davis (’16)

It was difficult to pick one player as my #3 singles guy.

Connor and Sebo had similar CHS tennis careers. Both spent time playing singles and doubles, both won league singles titles, and both fell short of making it to state.

Both were also leaders of the team, both athletically and academically.

Sebastian, despite almost always having a lead role in the fall theater production, always found a way to be the star on both the court and the stage.

What’s more, his did it while maintaining a ridiculously high academic standard.

He didn’t have the big serve and forehand that most singles players desired, but he did have amazing drive and passion for the game.

He kept focus, ran every ball down, and played every shot like it was the shot that could win the match. That kind of attitude inspired others to reach similar heights.

I credit Connor for legitimizing the boys’ tennis team during my tenure as coach.

He convinced his parents to put up a wall over their garage door. He played in the off-season. He took lessons. He went to camps. He watched tennis on television. He attended tournaments.

He and I were even lucky enough to watch the US Davis Cup Team win the title over Russia, when it was held in Portland several years ago.

He still strings our players’ rackets.

Connor cared. He cared about his school, his team, and his game.

He worked harder than any other boy that has ever played for me. No lie. He worked that hard.

He and I used to joke around about being mild to moderately athletic and how people like us had to work harder than the natural athletes.

I don’t say this to belittle him.

He just wasn’t the athlete that Jordan Lamb was. He had to work harder. And he did.

One of my favorite memories of Connor came just after he finished his final season at CHS. Having been eliminated from the district singles tourney, Connor was understandably upset.

The manager of the Nordstrom Tennis Center at the UW had taken notice of Connor’s passion and love for the game.

She asked him about his plans for the following year and when he told her he’d be attending the UW, she offered him a job on the spot. He ended up working there and stringing rackets for the UW tennis team.

#1 Doubles — Ben Etzell (’14)/Aaron Curtin (’15)

Aaron is the only boy to be on both the singles and doubles lists.

I’ll speak a little about Aaron, seeing that I shared some thoughts about him in the singles portion of this list.

In his doubles duo, Aaron represented experience and quiet leadership. He’d played a bunch of doubles during his ninth grade year, and I charged him with bringing Ben (who had only turned out as a junior) up to speed.

Aaron originally didn’t want to play doubles, instead hoping to make a run in singles.

I’m glad I was able to convince him to partner up with Ben. They made a fabulous duo, going all the way to state and winning a match before being eliminated.

Ben was the kid I tried and tried to convince to play tennis. Luckily, as a junior, he finally gave in.

Working with Ben was easy. He loved the work, he loved the teammates, and he loved the game.

What’s more, he was one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever worked with.

To begin tennis as a junior and qualify for state as a senior is, for most people, a fantasy at best. Ben made it a reality.

I remember his very first day of practice. I was trying to get him to slow down his swing, to no avail.

By the end of the day, he was hitting 90 MPH serves.

He played tennis with the unbridled joy of a little league baseball player and the heart of a mercenary.

Following his collegiate baseball career has been a pleasure.

I hope that as an educator, he decides to coach tennis as well as baseball. His energy would benefit tons of young athletes.

#2 Doubles — Joey Lippo (’18)/William Nelson (’18)

Joey and Will played doubles together for all four of their years at CHS.

In their senior season, they came up one point shy of making it to the state tourney. Had they won that point, they would be sharing the #1 spot with Aaron and Ben.

That said, they are one of the best doubles teams I’ve ever coached. Silky smooth William and big banging Joey.

Their evolution was a beautiful thing to watch. From skinny ninth graders to fully grown seniors, each year showed massive growth in their skills.

They were also, in the words of Stuart Scott, “cooler than the other side of the pillow.”

They were pretty unflappable and rarely showed emotion on the court.

They played so many big matches through the years, and they often drew a crowd when they played, which says a lot because tennis usually does not draw a crowd.

Much like Ben and Aaron, tennis was their alternate sport, with William excelling in soccer and Joey finding success in baseball.

Watching them blend their main sport skills into tennis was interesting.

William had instant top tennis footwork, while Joey could hit the fuzz off the ball from day one. It didn’t take long for them to round into a top-flight doubles team.

#3 Doubles — (tie) — John McClarin (’17)/ Joseph Wedekind (’17) and Jordan Lamb (’10)/Nathan Lamb (’13)

Both duos won league championships, with Joseph and John playing together for three years and the Lamb brothers playing together during Jordan’s senior and Nathan’s freshman year.

All four of them were influential leaders of their teams.

Over the course of 13 years, there have been quite a few sets of siblings that have played tennis.

For me, it was always all the more enjoyable to have siblings, either on the team at the same time or stretching out over several years.

Lamb, Knoll, Curtin, Etzell, Nelson, Weaver, Monroe/Wright, Aparicio, Renninger, Akins, Ginnings, and a few more that don’t come to mind at this moment, are the families that have served CHS tennis well.

The Lambs were a dynamic duo.

Jordan, with his instructional video quality swing and his high level of consistency and Nathan, the aggressive and free-swinging gunslinger of a tennis player, made for some exciting tennis.

They didn’t possess the 12+ combined feet of length that most of my other teams flaunted, but they played big nonetheless.

There was a yin/yang quality about their playing styles.

Jordan has previous success with classmate Connor Tasoff and Nathan went on to play big at #1 singles.

I’m hoping for the Lamb kids to one day bring their children home to CHS so the tennis team can have some more of that Lamb athleticism.

Joseph and John. Where do I start?

They began as a couple of clumsy freshmen. However, they worked very diligently during the season. More importantly, they worked even harder during the off-season, and not just during the summer.

They played in the cold, wind, and even the rain. They played almost every day.

In an effort to gain court time during the spring, they signed up as managers for the girls’ team. They ended up becoming assistant coaches, so to speak.

From the bottom of the ladder as freshmen to the top of the ladder and league doubles champs as seniors is an impressive arc.

They were universally respected by every CHS player, male and female.

They made my life a great deal easier by being trustworthy leaders, and their imprint will last for a couple of more years, even though they have graduated.

#4 Doubles — Brian Miller (’08)/Jake Weaver (’07)

Brian and Jake were a combined 12′ 10″ tall. Lobbing over them was a no-go.

They were my first legitimate boys’ doubles team. They led by setting a quality example, and they were ferocious on the court.

Unfortunately for them, Friday Harbor had a state doubles team during that time, and that kept Brian and Jake from picking up some hardware.

Brian was one of the fastest 6′ 6″ kids I’d ever seen and he had the power to match his frame.

Jake was long and lean, and he could run fast all day long. He got to balls that I couldn’t dream of chasing down.

Brian and Jake were the pair that originally set the bar for the guys’ team after I took over as coach. The younger kids saw the bar and surpassed it.


Return Thursday for part 3 of our five-part series, as Stange reveals his all-time girls tennis lineup.

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