Posts Tagged ‘tennis’

Brazilian foreign exchange student Julia Borges built a substantial fan club during her time in Coupeville. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Gone, but never forgotten.

Julia Borges was only in Coupeville for a single school year, but she made a positive impression on everyone she met.

Facing culture shock, as the Brazilian native left São Paulo, the most populous city in the Western hemisphere, only to land smack-dab in the middle of Cow Town, USA, she responded by embracing every challenge.

During her year (2015-2016) as a foreign exchange student, Julia jumped headfirst into everything Coupeville offered.

A dancer, she joined the CHS cheer squad, taking advantage of an opportunity not generally offered in her own country.

“It is not common to have cheer-leading teams in Brazil, so that is a different experience that all the Brazilian girls would like to have,” she said back in the summer of 2015.

“I love dancing and I have been practicing it in Brazil since I was a child, so being a cheerleader is similar.”

Julia caught on so quickly, she cheered for her new classmates through both football and basketball season, and was selected as Most Improved by her coaches.

When the spring came around in 2016, she picked up a tennis racket and headed to the courts.

Along with two seasons as a cheerleader, Borges also played tennis for the Wolves.

There she proved to be a perfect doubles partner, teaming up with Julianne Sem to form a dangerous duo for a Wolf net squad which won a league title.

What always impressed me the most about Julia during her time in Coupeville was her quiet strength and how she showed kindness to all, whether they were teammates or foes.

Going from a home of 19 million people to a town of less than 1,900 had to be a huge transition.

Like all foreign exchange students, Julia would have been dealing with language barriers and perhaps some home sickness.

She responded by bringing out the best in those around her by simply being herself, a truly lovely young woman.

Julia might not have set any sports records while she wore the red and black of Coupeville, but she was a winner in every way.

She got the most out of her life-changing experience, and left behind a legion of fans.

While she might be a world away from Whidbey Island these days, Julia will always be a vital part of Wolf Nation – her serene spirit lighting up the universe.

So today we want to induct Miss Borges into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, to insure she always knows how highly everyone here regards her.

After this, if you stroll past the Legends tab at the top of the blog, you’ll find her there, a true Wolf, now and forever.

Thank you, Julia, for visiting our lil’ chunk of the globe and making it a much-better place while you were here.

As you become a soaring success out there in the world, always know you have two hometowns – the one where you were born, and the one that has adopted you as one of our own.

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Tia Wurzrainer: three sports, 1000% effort. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Numbers don’t always tell the full story.

And that’s why, to fully appreciate what Tia Wurzrainer brought to Coupeville High School athletics the past four years, you needed to see her play in person.

From a distance, she didn’t score a staggering amount of goals on the soccer field, and didn’t net a record-busting number of baskets on the hardwood.

But watch Tia play in person, whether it was soccer, basketball, or tennis season, and you would quickly gain an appreciation of why she was so valued by coaches, and so beloved by her teammates.

The young girl who once sat quietly eating her sandwich back in a corner at her family’s restaurant, Christopher’s on Whidbey, emerged as one of the hardest-working, far-tougher-than-expected athletes to ever pull on a Wolf jersey.

Tia did the dirty work, and then asked for more, always with a smile.

On the soccer field, she sacrificed her body game after game, a defender who seemingly feared no scoring ace, and wasn’t gonna take no crap from no one, no matter how fancy the rival school might be.

She protected her side of the field with a burning intensity, slamming into frays, chasing down breakaways, fighting for every 50/50 ball, making life considerably easier for the CHS goalkeepers who camped out behind her.

Give her a chance to score, and she could, but Tia made her name holding down the backline, where she netted All-Conference honors and earned mad respect from anyone foolish enough to challenge her.

As fall faded into winter, she would move from the pitch to the basketball court, but her persona as a quietly tough-as-nails roustabout never changed.

Tia slices to the hoop for a bucket in a big win over arch-rival South Whidbey.

The kind of “glue” player every coach needs, she was that rare teen athlete who not only accepted her role, but openly embraced it.

Need a lock-down defender?

A hustler and a scrapper?

A pass-first player who could help keep her team flowing under big-time pressure?

A staunch supporter of each and every one of her teammates?

Tia was the answer for all those needs, and she always seemed to play with the same intensity and effort regardless of whether she was starting or coming off the bench.

Proving she was a true three-sport star, she never skipped a season, joining Avalon Renninger to form a deadly doubles duo on the tennis court each spring.

Always a deadly assassin on the tennis court.

The pair meshed almost flawlessly, both in playing style, and with the grace and drive they exhibited match after match.

Team leaders, captains, and stellar competitors, the duo were on the fast track to make it to the state tourney, only to see their senior season derailed by COVID-19.

While Tia and Avalon didn’t get the chance to make a run at glory in Eastern Washington, that shouldn’t detract in the slightest from what they accomplished when given a chance to play.

While reflecting on their net careers, CHS tennis guru Ken Stange marveled at what Wurzrainer had brought to his program.

Tia … calm, cool, and collected.

“She would probably argue with me, but I think Tia is perfect.

“Kind, intelligent, intuitive, and hard working. I don’t think I ever heard a single negative word pass through her lips.

“Her work ethic was second to none. Anyone would be happy to have her as a partner, me included.”

Some athletes get a chance to put up big numbers, making it easy for people in far-off states or other countries to have at least a loose idea of what they accomplished.

But it’s those like Tia, the ones you need to be camped out in the bleachers, or on the bench, or out there on the floor with her, to really appreciate, who make an impact which can’t be matched.

If you know, you know.

And, if you don’t know, you really, truly missed out.

Today, we swing open the doors at the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame and welcome Tia to our hallowed digital hideaway, where she is reunited with Avalon, her tennis doubles partner.

After this, you’ll find them at the top of the blog, hanging out under the Legends tab.

All in all, a very appropriate choice of words to describe two of the best, as athletes and as people, to ever emerge from Coupeville.

Wurzrainer and Renninger? They were kind of a big deal.

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Mason Grove, here to entertain. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Mason Grove would make Alexander Hamilton proud, cause the former Wolf never, ever threw away his shot.

Instead, the 2020 CHS grad spent most of his days in the red and black making the net jump, three-ball after three-ball falling from the skies.

Grove feared no rival on the hardwood, and played basketball in the style of a Damian Lillard, letting fly from any angle, any spot on the floor, at any point in the game.

From a scrappy, undersized youngster to a confident elder statesmen and team leader, his journey on the basketball court was a thrilling one to watch for hoops fans.

Not that Grove was a one-sport guy, as he also excelled on the tennis courts and baseball diamond.

Grove always seemed to enjoy his time as an athlete, even after a collision with teammate Matt Hilborn left him with a smashed-up nose. (Chris Smith photo)

He made an especially-strong case for himself with a racket in hand, where he meshed often dynamic shot-making skills with a nice bit of attitude.

Paired up with James Wood, Grove was a top doubles ace for Ken Stange’s Wolf tennis squads, and the duo thrived in the spotlight of being Coupeville’s #1 team.

But, while he was a jack of all trades on the baseball diamond, and a throwback to a better, grittier time on the tennis court — unlike most modern players, Grove wasn’t afraid to drill a rival player with the ball, something which makes ’80s tennis players such as myself nod in approval — it’s basketball which dominates his resume.

“You will not score! I will … a lot … but you won’t!!” (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Grove loved to shoot, and, while he developed as an attacker as he matured, getting to the free throw line more often, the three-ball was his prime weapon.

His shot was always a little bit different than a lot of other players, as he would rear back and fling the ball from over his shoulder.

And it worked, big time.

Since he snapped off his shots, Grove almost always got the ball up before defenders could adjust, and the resulting heaves were rainbows caressing the roof of the gym.

When he got hot, it seemed like he would never miss, shot after shot rippling the net, while Grove, slight smirk hiding behind his mouth guard, ambled away like a gunfighter after another successful shoot-out at high noon.

Early in his CHS hoops career, he was on pace to be the highest-scoring JV player the Wolf boys program had ever seen.

In one game against Port Townsend, Grove rained down 10 three-balls on his way to 34 points, and the only reason he didn’t catch Allen Black for the single-season JV scoring mark was because his JV playing time became limited as varsity coach Brad Sherman started using him as a go-to gunner.

Once he made his mark at the varsity level, immediately stroking long-range shots and opening space for older teammate Hunter Smith to rumble, Grove never looked back.

He was the #6 scorer on the varsity team as a sophomore, despite playing in just a handful of minutes, then jumped to #3 as a junior and #1 during his senior season.

When he walked off the court for the final time at CHS, after a season and prep career-ending playoff loss, Grove had rung up 414 points in varsity games, which puts him #54 all-time for a program which has played for 103 seasons.

And the numbers are nice, definitely.

But it’s how he played which fans will remember.

In all of his sports, Grove was just flat-out entertaining, capable and willing of putting on a show.

He always got the most out of his talent, and seemed to enjoy every moment he had on a court or field.

So, for the numbers, and for the style, and for the way he would stand off to the side, talking and smiling with a rival player, while free throws were being shot, and then, bam, two seconds later, drill a three-ball right in that guy’s face, he joins big sis Lauren in the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

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

Right where they belong.

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Coupeville grad Jazmine Franklin continues to take the art world by storm. (Photos courtesy Franklin)

It’s a win-win.

You can make a visible commitment to backing the Black Lives Matter movement, while supporting one of Coupeville’s most talented grads.

Jazmine Franklin was a student leader and standout two-sport athlete (tennis and cheer) during her days at CHS, and she continues to excel as an adult.

Her artwork is eye-catching, such as in the piece seen below.

A recent Franklin art work.

Franklin’s newest project is a series of Black Lives Matter designs, which can be ordered on t-shirts and hoodies.

She can also do custom items such as long sleeve shirts, tank tops, onesies, and toddler items upon request.

For orders or questions, contact Franklin at JZMNOriginals@gmail.com.

Three designs, one cause.


Current offerings:

T-shirts (Gildan200)
$15 each plus shipping


White lettering on:

Charcoal grey
Royal blue


Black lettering on:

Safety green (neon)
Hot pink


Hoodies (Gildan185)
$30 each plus shipping


White lettering on:
Garnet (reddish maroon)
Charcoal grey
Royal blue

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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.


Because I believe in Avalon Renninger.

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