Cai Sisters Give #2 Seeds a Scare, but Fall in CIF Round-of-16

52F047DF-0D5E-4126-B75C-0B75D439B55A.jpegJackie and Carol Cai were unable to continue their fairy-tale run in CIF Individuals play today. Despite coming up short, it was all smiles for the sisters, as they pushed their more experienced opponents and proved beyond doubt that they are one of the best doubles teams in the strongest high school section in the country.

The Cate duo faced tournament #2-seed Emily Ackerman (senior) and Chloe Bendetti (junior) from Oaks Christian. Bendetti was no stranger to the big show, having reached the finals of last year’s tournament, and Ackerman will play for Cal Poly SLO next year, an NCAA D1 program. Both players are ranked in the top 150 players in the country for their classes.

Experience was on display, as the Oaks Christian team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set. Serves to the corners and crisp volleys punctuated nearly every point and to the casual viewer, the match may have appeared like a formality.

Unfazed, Cai and Cai battled back by winning the next four games and had some opportunities to draw even in the tenth game before a missed poach ended the set.

The surprise was palpable on the faces of the Oaks Christian coaches and fans sitting courtside and frustrations became visible on-court as well. “These Cate are you to play” was the obvious signal.

After dropping the first set 4-6, the sisters jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second, with a quick break of Ackerman’s serve and a textbook hold of Carol’s serve. Bendetti held a tough service game with a clutch corner ace to stem the bleeding and again the momentum shifted.

The Oaks Christian pairing hit a hot streak and rattled off four straight games to regain control of the match, as the Cai’s has a dip in energy. The final few games were fairly evenly contested, but the second set went to Oaks Christian 6-3.

While this was the last stand for Jackie Cai, a senior, Carol will have two more opportunities to improve upon this year’s performance. As has been the case in recent years, every season at Cate has brought a new level of success, and with returning players like Carol and the knowledge passed down by outgoing players like Jackie, the team looks primed for another great season in 2018!

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Cai Sisters Advance to Sweet 16 with Dominant Performance

EC538F08-E5CB-4930-B060-E05ED8F8FC7AThe Cate Doubles pairing of sisters Jackie and Carol Cai continues to push forward into uncharted territory in CIF Individuals.

After qualifying as one of four teams from our region last week, the Sisters Cai were one of eight teams competing today for four spots in the CIF Individuals Finals Tournament Round-of-16.

Cate’s opponent was a doubles team from Long Beach Poly who had two full seasons of experience playing together, but Jackie and Carol came out swinging. Carol Cai hit a number of down-the-line winners off returns in the early games and Jackie Cai served as though possessed. Despite strong resistance from the experienced Poly team, the first set went 6-1 to Cate.

The second set of play was characterized by holds of serve; twelve of them, to be exact. Though the Cai’s were always up, and had a few opportunities early in the set to break, the Poly team picked it up in the second half of the set and forced a tie-breaker.

Cate came out nervous in the breaker, dropping five of the first six points. Undaunted, the Cate duo regrouped and put on a show of doubles dominance, winning seven of the next eight points to capture the match in straight sets.

Jackie and Carol Cai will play again tomorrow morning at 10:30am at Seal Beach Tennis Center and, with a win, would play again later in the day in the quarterfinal round.

This is the first time in 9 seasons as a coach at Cate that any team or singles player has advanced this far in CIF Individuals play. It’s a rarity, particularly coming from a school with such a strong academic focus, but a sweet opportunity.

Jackie, a senior, seems determined not to let the season end and as luck would have it, she’s got the perfect partner in her sister Carol to keep the dream alive!

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Cate Battles Mightily in 6-12 Playoff Loss

IMG_4428Cate’s first foray into the girls’ tennis division one playoffs ended with a 6-12 loss today at home against Mira Costa.

In the first round, Cate got big wins from Sarah Polowczak and Fritze Mayer at #3 doubles and Jackie and Carol Cai at #1 doubles in a brilliantly played tie-breaker.

Jackie Cai held serve at 5-6 down with two consecutive aces to open the game and then her younger sister Carol poached the return on the next point. The older Cai then fired another unreturnable serve to force the tie-breaker. The Cai sisters, recently crowned two-time TVL League Doubles Champions took an early lead in the breaker and held it to a 7-4 conclusion in what was the most excited set on the day.

Grace Fuss and Sydney Burton both pushed their opponents to the 4-6 sets in singles action, despite being outmatched on paper.

After dropping the first round 2-4, Cate looked to be on the rebound with a quick 6-0 win from Grace Fuss and Sydney Burton taking a 5-0 lead on the Mira Costa #2. Meanwhile, Jackie and Carol Cai delivered a 6-0 victory against the #3 doubles team.

The match took another momentum swing, though, as Cate’s #2 team of Janice Ng and Jennifer Soh dropped a 1-6 set against the Mira Costa #1’s and Polowczak/Mayer could not hold an early lead against the #2’s, falling 3-6. A heady change of strategy yielded a seven-game swing for Mira Costa at the #2 singles position, where Burton had previously looked to have the set locked up.

Down 4-8 after two rounds, Cate remained resolute to fight to the last set, with the Cai sisters completing their sweep on the day with a 6-4 set. Meanwhile, Polowczak and Mayer played their best tennis of the day to record a 4-6 loss against Mira Costa’s formidable #1’s and Ng/Soh held a 5-4 lead against the #3’s before losing the final three games.

Kate Tunnell couldn’t get past the Mira Costa #3, though she played her best tennis of the season throughout the day. Grace Fuss added the final win of the day just moments after substitute Yuki Kobayashi dropped her set against the #1 from Mira Costa, making the final score 6-12.

In total, five-of-seven sets decided by two games or less went the way of Mira Costa, meaning that Cate was very much in the battle and might have come out the victor had just a few games in those key sets gone the other way.

This was the first season for Cate in CIF’s top division, which is composed of the best 30 teams in Southern California. Today, Cate faced a school with 10 times its enrollment and made a very strong stand.

Three seasons prior, Cate girls’ tennis was promoted from D4 to D2 and lost in the first round before going on to reach the quarterfinals in the next two seasons. Perhaps this is just the start?

If I can say anything about my team, it’s that they have always risen to meet the next challenge. We faced a very strong team with an exponentially larger student body and from a powerhouse league. Still, from the first point to the last, we belonged. My girls have heart and they love to compete with class. As a coach and mentor, I couldn’t be more proud.

Cate will be represented in CIF Individuals by Grace Fuss in singles and in doubles by Janice Ng/Sarah Polowczak as well as Carol Cai/Jackie Cai. The Cai sisters look primed to break out of the regional event, where last year they won two rounds before dropping the final round-of-play. No Cate girls’ tennis player/team has broken through to the CIF Individuals Final Rounds in the last ten plus years.IMG_4436

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Cate Girls Take Three-of-Four Spots from TVL for CIF Individuals

IMG_1750 2Cate’s Grace Fuss advanced to the singles league finals for the second time in two seasons on Thursday at Pepperdine University. Fuss finished the regular season a perfect 23-0 in TVL singles play and 33-2 across all matches. Continue reading

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Cate Finishes Third Consecutive Unbeaten TVL Season

IMG_4281Cate girls’ tennis has now won 26 consecutive league matches, going 10-0 this season to earn a third consecutive Tri-Valley League Title. Continue reading

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Cate Drops Close San Marcos Match, Rebounds in Malibu

IMG_1616After a resounding 17-1 victory against Carpinteria High School last Thursday, Cate faced local powerhouse San Marcos High School in a battle between (arguably) the two strongest girls’ tennis programs in Santa Barbara County. While Cate did not come out on top, there is no doubt that the match had a positive impact on the season and that energy yielded results in Malibu yesterday. Continue reading

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Cate Moves to 7-0 with Two More Decisive Wins

Cate Girls’ Tennis continues to pick up steam headed into the big show-down with San Marcos High.

Cate v. La Reina, 16-2 Win

Cate took another overwhelming victory last Thursday against Tri-Valley League
opponent La Reina.

Sophomore Grace Fuss led the charge with a sweep, including a convincing 6-1 victory over Tiara Nourishad, who is currently ranked #85 in California amongst juniors. Nourishad rallied to collect La Reina’s two wins on the day.

All eleven active players on the Cate roster picked up at least one win on the day. Continue reading

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