Walla Walla High School’s boys tennis team tied for second place in the 1990 Class AAA state championships.
One big reason was a pair of singles players — Josh Reed and Burbank transfer Lance Sappington — teaming up to win four straight-set matches on their way to a doubles title.
“It was Josh’s fourth year on varsity,” former Blue Devil coach Ted Cummings said. “There are maybe a handful of guys that have done that at Wa-Hi.
“Lance’s reputation preceded him,” Cummings said. “(Ex-coach) Tim Thomas told me what a fantastic kid Lance was at Burbank. He was our decisive No. 1 coming in. He had the biggest forehand I’ve seen in 30 years.
“He was driven, but not more than Josh was,” Cummings said.
Sappington, now an assistant men’s tennis coach at Whitman, said the doubles idea “wasn’t planned at the beginning of the year. It was a conversation we had in the middle of the year.”
Cummings, who taught for 32 years and coached tennis and volleyball for 11, said Sappington “was a hard sell,” but posed a simple question to his star pupil: “Do you want to go to state or win state?”
Both players displayed their prowess in regular-season tournaments during their Blue Decil careers.
Sappington was the No. 1 singles champion at the Tri-City Invitational both his junior and senior seasons.
Reed, who played singles for much of 1990, showed his doubles metal with junior- and senior-year victories at the annual Inland Empire championships.
Sappington and Reed defeated Eisenhower’s formidable duo of Dan Gordon and Jonathan Wright for the district crown. Gordon and Wright went on to finish third at state, Cummings said.
“It opened our eyes,” Sappington said. “We had a chance to do a little damage at state.”
“There might have been two tiebreakers,” said Reed, a second grade teacher at Edison. “It was very tight and close in the district championship.”
Cummings credited former junior varsity coach Craig Hansen for Sappington’s and Reed’s postseason preparation.
“He would spend 45 minutes or so after practice at least twice a week to get the boys ready for district and state,” Cummings said.
Sappington and Reed downed Decatur’s Andy Cho and Maynard Wagner in their state opener, 6-0, 6-1. Carl Barber and Mike McDermott of Auburn were next to fall, 6-4, 6-2.
The Mercer Island pair of Chris Hanson and Andy Price proved to be no match for Sappington and Reed, 6-3, 6-1.
Bellarmine Prep’s Carlos Flores and Pat Thiessen put up a tougher battle in the title match. But Sappington and Reed outlasted them, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5 in the second-set tiebreaker).
“We had 50-100 people that cheered us on — (including) my basketball brothers Drew Bledsoe, Gus Rojas and Cary Flanagan,” said Sappington, who came up short in singles finals the previous two seasons. “It was a good feeling to erase some of those earlier memories.”
“We had good support from classmates of ours and parents,” Reed said. “Lance’s mom loved seeing our reaction to winning. Everybody seemed to be as happy as we were.”
“Lance and Josh were outstanding people, athletes, and tennis players,” Cummings said. “They readily bought in to our team-first concept — where all players helped develop other players during every practice.”
After one last look back, Cummings added, “Being the best in the state of Washington (will) never leave your memory. It’s equally or more satisfying to coach a team that wins a state championship.”