SHORELINE — Aaron Lee and Nomar Mapalo tried to mask their excitement after capturing the Northwest District 4A doubles crown.
Not that it wasn’t tempting to rub in the most thrilling victory of their brief partnership.
But the downside of their three-set championship triumph last fall was that it came at the expense of Shorewood teammates Scott Bourne and Steve McCall.
It was the first setback for the reigning state champions since the 2003 state tournament and ended their 37-match win streak.
“We were pretty determined,” Lee said. “They’re state champions, so it’s pretty fun to dethrone them. But at the same time they’re your teammates. It’s pretty much whoever wins gets the pride of the school.”
Lee and Mapalo prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to earn campus bragging rights during the six-month layoff between the district and state tournaments.
“That was the toughest match because we all know each other and know each other’s styles,” Lee said. “It’s a lot harder playing against your own team than someone you don’t know.”
The teams revived their rivalry at the end of May, playing a few high-energy sets each afternoon to prepare for this weekend’s Class 4A state tennis championships in Spokane.
Lee is the group’s only first-time state participant. Bourne and McCall are making their third consecutive appearance as a unit and Mapalo advanced in singles as a freshman.
During the regular season, Mapalo, Bourne and McCall anchored the Shorewood singles lineup and Lee was a fixture in the No. 1 doubles slot.
Lee and Mapalo forged an instant connection prior to the division tournament and provided stiff competition for Bourne and McCall at practice.
“They’re both quick at the net and they’ve got great reflexes,” Bourne said. “Nomar has some serious muscle and Aaron’s smart with his shots. They work well together.”
McCall senses a familiar dynamic in Lee and Mapalo.
“It’s pretty much the same package as Scott and I, but Nomar is such an overpowering player he adds a little more to the game,” he said. “Nomar’s presence on the court puts more pressure on everybody else because you know he can come up with a huge shot.”
Both pairs blend tenacity and touch.
Mapalo and McCall pack a punch with their serves and smashes and Lee and Bourne contribute consistent strokes and cunning net play.
“I trust him at the net with his shots and he trusts me with my serves and vice versa,” Mapalo said. “When I’m at the net he trusts me with my shots. We’ve got that feeling like we know where the other’s at.”
As the top two seeds out of District 1, the pairs are placed on opposite sides of the 16-team state draw and wouldn’t cross paths until the second day of the tournament.
“Hopefully we can have a Shorewood vs. Shorewood final,” Mapalo said. “A rematch for them.”
If the teammates do meet in the finals, it would likely give the Thunderbirds enough points to secure the school’s first team championship in 17 years.
“We missed winning state by two points last year with only one team. If we can go 1-2, we have a pretty good shot at winning state,” McCall said.
“There’s one team sending four (entries), so it will be tough to beat them. But that’s the big goal for this year because it hasn’t been done at Shorewood since 1988. We haven’t had a state championship in any sport in six years, so we’re hoping to do it.”