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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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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:

https://www.gofundme.com/ken039s-fusion-fund

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Coupeville grad Joey Lippo is off to play college tennis in Kentucky. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Tennis it is.

Joey Lippo was a three-sport star during his days at Coupeville High School, anchoring Wolf teams in tennis, basketball and baseball.

He was also the rare male athlete who could do a mean dance as well, often joining twin sister Skyy in her world of ballet, when he performed in productions of The Nutcracker.

But now Lippo, a 2018 CHS grad, will devote himself solely to the racket arts, after agreeing to play tennis for Midway University in Kentucky.

The liberal arts school competes athletically in the River States Conference, and is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Most NAIA schools offer athletic scholarships, and Midway has pledged to pick up a substantial portion of Lippo’s college costs, making his parents hearts sing with great joy.

In addition to playing tennis, Lippo will study environmental science. School begins Jan. 7, with tennis starting in Feb.

He’s joining an Eagles program which is still in its infancy, as Midway was an all-girls school until just recently.

Founded in 1847, the school was originally known as the Kentucky Female Orphan School and admitted its first male undergraduates in time for the fall 2017 semester.

Midway University sits smack-dab on a 200-acre working farm in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, and the oldest building on campus, Pinkerton Hall, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

While the school has been around for a long time, Lippo is one of the pioneers for male sports at the institution.

The men’s tennis program is in just its second season, with coach Joe Reyes, a highly-accomplished former college player, quickly building a strong roster.

The Eagles currently lay claim to players from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas, plus four foreign netters, one from Spain and three from Columbia.

And now you can add Washington state to the list.

“The tennis coach found me somehow and told me to come visit the school,” Lippo said. “I got to play with the team and I loved that environment and everyone was so welcoming.

“It’s a small school and reminds me a lot of Coupeville.”

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Cam Dahl (18) scraps during Coupeville football’s season finale. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Wolf fans jam the bleachers.

It’s edge of your seat time.

With every fall sport having wrapped regular season play, we’re fully into playoff mode.

10 North Sound Conference teams are still alive for a state title, though the only one we truly care about on this blog is the Coupeville volleyball squad.

Having split two matches at the district tourney Saturday, the Wolf spikers sit a win away from advancing to bi-districts.

That match arrives Tuesday, when CHS travels to Lynden to face Nooksack Valley.

King’s (volleyball, football, soccer) and South Whidbey (VB, FB, soccer) account for six of the other nine squads still alive in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Cedar Park Christian is alive in football and soccer and Granite Falls is still kicking in football, though Tiger soccer, which tied for second-place in the NSC, is the highest seed to have been knocked out of the postseason.

Sultan, with every team eliminated, gets ready for winter sports.

 

Standings through Oct. 28 (* = league champs):

 

North Sound Conference volleyball:

School League Overall
King’s * 10-0 15-1
COUPEVILLE 7-3 11-4
South Whidbey 6-4 10-7
CPC-Bothell 5-5 9-9
Granite Falls 1-9 4-13
Sultan 1-9 4-11


North Sound Conference football:

School League Overall
CPC-Bothell * 5-0 7-1
King’s 4-1 4-5
South Whidbey 3-2 6-3
Granite Falls 2-3 2-7
Sultan 1-4 2-7
COUPEVILLE 0-5 3-6


North Sound Conference girls soccer:

School League Overall
King’s * 9-1 16-2
Granite Falls 7-3 9-8-1
South Whidbey 7-3 9-7-2
CPC-Bothell 4-6 9-8-1
Sultan 2-8 6-11
COUPEVILLE 1-9 2-12-1


Emerald City League boys tennis:

School League Overall
Seattle Academy * 13-0 13-0
University Prep 11-3 11-4
Overlake 9-3 9-3
COUPEVILLE 7-6 8-6
Bush 6-8 6-8
South Whidbey 5-8 5-8
Bear Creek 2-12 2-12
Eastside Prep 0-13 0-13

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