Laguna Blanca Surges to CIF Quarterfinals

ORG_DSC00096Laguna Blanca advanced to the CIF D4 Playoffs Quarterfinal Round for the second consecutive year with a 13-5 victory over rival Rio Mesa of Oxnard. The teams have played each other in each of the last five seasons, with every match decided 10-8 or 9-9, including a 10-8 win for Laguna earlier this season.

How it Happened

Rio Mesa relied on their nationally-ranked top player Andy Hess to put the first set on the board, though Alex Furukawa gave Hess a strong challenge in the second half of the set. After going down 0-3 in the first five minutes of play, Furukawa began to find his rhythm, taking two games and creating a number of opportunities for himself through aggressive play.

Laguna’s top doubles pairing, seniors Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick began the match at #3 doubles, making a quick response to Hess’s 6-2 win with a 6-0 win of their own.

At the end of round one, Laguna took a 4-2 lead on the back of a tie-break win from senior Kelvin Chen and freshman Ryan Purkait, who fought back from a 2-4 deficit. “I’m just so thankful to have all my teammates standing there and cheering for us,” said the senior at the end of the match. In what was a very tight set, Chen and Purkait came through at all the critical moments, buoyed by the support of their teammates.

Victor Liu (pictured above) had a stand-out performance on the day, with the senior taking two-of-three sets and beating two players he had lost two earlier in the season. After his victory over Rio #2 Andrew Diaz, Laguna Blanca continued to roll, finishing the second round-of-play with an 8-4 lead.

In the final round, only Rio’s Andy Hess was able to take set from the Owls. Despite having a solid lead, Laguna continued to compete at a high level, not only to ensure victory, but to practice strategies that might be useful down the line.

Scheinberg and Barnick completed a sweep of their three sets, avenging a 4-6 loss against the #1 Rio combo with a 6-3 victory. After trailing 0-2 earlier, the veteran Owls rallied and looked dominant, winning six of the next seven games. This match appeared to be a turning point for the seniors, who had struggled against opponent #1 teams throughout the season.

Coach’s Notes

I’m so proud of the way my guys competed today. This was our best performance of the season and it came against a tough opponent at an important time. We’ve been on the cusp of reaching another level for most of the season and today we found that extra level.

The difference was the way we supported each other, which I think led to more engagement. This was the first match that really felt like full-on playoff intensity from all our guys. All ten of our guys were totally committed on the court and they got great energy from the rest of the team looking on.

We’re looking forward to another CIF Quarterfinals appearance on Monday and hoping to take it a step further.

What’s Next?

Laguna Blanca will play away against the #4-seeded Laguna Beach at 3pm on Monday.

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Laguna Take CIF 1st Round Win in Desert Heat

As the hills parted and Laguna Blanca School vans descended into the Antelope Valley, temperatures touched triple digits on the dash display. Intermittent gusts of wind would provide an occasional break from the blistering heat, but came with their own complications, as tennis is never easy in the wind.

Laguna Blanca @ Quartz Hill, 11-7 Win

The Owls jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the match, but four of those five sets were decided by two games or less. The momentum shifted significantly, with Quartz Hill taking five of the next seven sets to make it 7-5 Laguna after two rounds-of-play.

In the third, Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick took their set, with Kevin Khodabandehlou and third-round substitute John-Henry Schulz also finishing with a win just seconds later. Alex Furukawa won the match-clinching 10th set soon after, while Kai Nakamura added another win for good measure.

Coach’s Notes

I’m very pleased with the way my top singles and doubles positions took care of business today. Overall, it was an uneven performance for us, with lots of good runs mixed in with too many lapses, so to get sweeps at the #1 position in singles and doubles was huge.

What’s Next in the Playoffs

Laguna will play at home on Friday at 3pm against Rio Mesa, a team they narrowly beat during the regular season (10-8). Rio and Laguna are two of five teams from the Santa Barbara/Ventura County Area still alive in the CIF D4 Round-of-16, with Carpinteria, Nordhoff, and Santa Ynez also winning yesterday. Santa Ynez would be the likely next opponent should Laguna Blanca win on Friday.

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Catching Up with the Owls at Playoff Time

ORG_DSC00093It’s been over a month since the last update on Laguna Blanca’s season. In the meantime, the Owls went 9-1 to finish the regular season 14-2, garnering the #5-seed for CIF D4. It is their 5th consecutive season ranking amongst the top-10 teams in the division.

CIF Wildcard Round: Laguna Blanca v. Lompoc High, 17-1 Win

As part of being a freelance team, despite being seeded within the playoff tournament draw, Laguna Blanca needed to play in the Tuesday Wildcard Round. The match, played at home against Lompoc High School, was a show of force for the Owls, who dropped just one set and spread the wins amongst 13 players.

Alex Furukawa (pictured above), who has played #1 singles since early in the season, led the team with 6-0, 6-1 victories before being substituted out. Victor Liu also won two rounds before subbing out, while sophomore Kai Nakamura played all three rounds for easy victories, dropping just three games along the way.

In doubles, the senior combo of Conor Scheinberg/Jason Barnick and senior/freshman pairing of Kelvin Chen/Ryan Purkait defeated Lompoc’s #1 team, with Chen and Purkait staying in all three rounds to complete a sweep on the day.

Sophomore Kevin Khodabandehlou and freshman Nic Richmond combined for the first time this season to win two-of-three, with a 6-4, 6-0, 2-6 line on the day. Sophomore John-Henry Schulz played his best doubles of the season to win both of his sets on the day, partnering with Barnick in the second round and junior Kovid Mishra in the final round-of-play.

Coaches’ Notes

This win marks 100 since I took over as head coach of the Laguna Blanca tennis team in 2010. In looking back at the Laguna Blanca Team History page, I learned that the six seniors on this team have achieved a remarkable 52-12 record in regular-season play, and now sit at 5-2 in the playoff competition.

What’s ahead for the Owls in this year’s CIF Playoffs

Laguna will travel to Quartz Hill in Lancaster for the CIF First Round, with the match beginning at 3pm on Wednesday, May 9th. The forecast calls for a high of 95 degrees, but the Owls appear ready to take on any challenge.

A win tomorrow will likely result in a rematch with one of Laguna’s top rivals over the years in Rio Mesa High School, a match that would be played at home in Hope Ranch.

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Owls Head to Spring Break 5-1, #4 Seed

Laguna Blanca faced a tough schedule with two consecutive long-drive, away matches followed by a Division 2 opponent, but came through the stretch with three important victories. Continue reading

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Fit and Firing Owls off to 2-0 Start with Convincing Early-Season Wins

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Hard work (including the team tradition “rain run” pictured above) has put the Owls in prime position to take another step forward this season. Laguna Blanca has begun the 2018 campaign with a pair of victories, with another four matches to be played in the next 9 days. Here are the recaps: Continue reading

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Thorpe Tennis: 2017 Year-in-Review

Laguna Sunday GroupLike most of us here in the Santa Barbara Area, 2017 ended on a frustrating note for me. Eleven months of momentum quite literally went up in smoke, as the Thomas Fire ravaged our mountains, threatened our community, and for three weeks made tennis all but impossible.

What it didn’t do is dampen my enthusiasm for the way my students have performed in 2017. Whether the goal was learning to put the ball on the strings consistently or to reach new heights in elite competition, Thorpe Tennis was blessed with big results this last year.

These achievements, which you will read more about below, had a particularly profound effect on the way I was able to process the end of my marriage. Those in this community who were aware of it offered me their heartfelt support and the time I got to spend with each of my students on-court was absolute joy in a time of sadness. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who is a part of Thorpe Tennis for being my guiding light in 2017.

Like a parent recently mentioned to me, referring to the mudslide troubles of this first month of 2018, “this too shall pass.” So onward to the highlights of 2017 and the opportunities that 2018 will surely provide:

 

  • Spent more than 1,000 hours on-court, coaching 59 players from age 6 to 54.
  • Directed a fourth edition of Laguna Blanca Summer Tennis Camp for middle schoolers and incoming freshmen that featured what I consider to be the best T-shirt design yet!All-Camp Photo
  • Significantly grew tennis participation at the lower/middle school level at Laguna Blanca, particularly through weekly group lessons.
  • Coached Laguna Blanca Boys’ High School Tennis to a 13-3 record and our deepest CIF Playoffs run to-date (Quarterfinals of D4).FullSizeRender 5
  • Led Cate Girls’ Tennis to a 13-1 regular season record and a third-consecutive Tri-Valley League Title. This also coincided with our promotion to the top division in Southern California. Being a D1 CIF tennis team means that we are considered one of the top 30 teams in what is widely considered the deepest high school section in the entire country. We are, by far, the smallest school to appear in CIF Division 1 and the first team of any sport to reach the top division at Cate.IMG_1131
  • Individually, my students at Cate had another phenomenal run:
    • Grace Fuss finished Runner-Up in Tri-Valley League Singles for a second consecutive season while earning team MVP honors.
    • Sarah Polowczak and Janice Ng had awesome seasons with other partners before pairing to finish Runner-Up in league (l. to sisters Cai). The pair continued their success with a first-round win in CIF Individuals.
    • Jackie Cai & Carol Cai repeated their Tri-Valley League Doubles Title and won four rounds in CIF Individuals, earning them the billing as one of the top 16 doubles teams in CIF Southern Section!

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Now it’s time to get back to work, Thorpe Tennis players, parents, and friends! We’ve got quite the year to top, but somehow we manage to do it again and again.

Sincerest thanks for another great year of tennis in Santa Barbara!

Trevor Thorpe

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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 girls are here 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 had 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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