Laguna’s Playoff Run Ends in Quarterfinal Round

FullSizeRender 5Our playoff streak ended at three wins last night, with a defeat coming at the hands of Downey High School in Los Angeles. The CIF Quarterfinal appearance was my sixth in 16 seasons of coaching high school teams in Santa Barbara, but the first for my boys’ team. In fact, it’s the deepest playoff run for Laguna tennis that can be recalled by athletic program staff going back at least twenty years. Here are the final two match recaps:

Laguna Blanca v. Cabrillo/Lompoc (14-4)

On Friday, the Owls validated their position as the #5-seed in CIF Division 4 with a resounding 14-4 win over Cabrillo/Lompoc. The Round-of-16 match was held at Laguna Blanca on a beautiful Santa Barbara day.

Cabrillo entered the match with a 16-2 record and the beginning of the match was close, with Laguna leading 3-2 and one tight doubles match still in play. Freshmen Rhami Zeini and John-Henry Schulz took a 6-4 victory at the #2 doubles position to put Laguna ahead 4-2 after the first round of play. From that point on, it was nearly all Laguna in the win column for the rest of the match.

Junior Alex Furukawa remains undefeated in playoff play, recording 6-1, 6-1, and 6-4 victories on the day and juniors Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick continued their unbeaten streak in the playoffs at #1 doubles. In fact, Laguna Blanca doubles swept Cabrillo in 9 sets-of-play, with Zeini and Schulz taking care of business at #2 doubles and Kelvin Chen and Kevin Khodabandehlou also winning all three sets.

Kai Nakamura and Victor Liu both defeated the Cabrillo #1 player Cedric Kwon, but fell two the #2-#3 players who were both playing in the their last high school match.

Laguna Blanca @ Downey (7-11)

Playing against a school with 4,200 students to make a team from was always going to be a challenge for the small private school, but Laguna Blanca held its own in many of the matchups.

Kai Nakamura won 2-of-3 sets and Alex Furukawa and Victor Liu each added wins against the Downey #3 position.

In doubles, Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick got off to an excellent start, defeating the Downey #1 doubles team in the first round (6-2) and eventually finishing 2-and-1 on the day. Kelvin Chen and Kevin Khodabandehlou added an impressive 6-4 victory over the #2’s in the final round of play (6-4); Chen and Khodabandehlou were 4-0 as a doubles pairing in the playoffs.

The Bottom Line

While this is the end of the season for Laguna, it’s only “part 1” for this team. The 12 players who traveled to the Downey match will all be back next season, looking to improve upon this quarterfinal appearance.

I’m very proud of the way my guys battled today, even as we recognized we where playing the last round of our season. We took the final round 4-2 against a Downey team that really didn’t have any weak points. We’re already looking ahead to next season and I know a lot of the guys are planning to work hard to in the off-season to be ready.

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Laguna Wins First Two Playoff Matches!

Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis has made a triumphant return to the CIF Division 4 Playoffs after a one-year absence. After finishing the regular season 13-3 and earning a freelance wildcard spot in the playoffs, Laguna has now won two playoff games and enters a third tomorrow against Cabrillo/Lompoc.

Laguna Blanca v. Paso Robles (15-3)

Paso Robles came to Furukawa Tennis Garden boasting a 14-6 record and seemed like a tough draw for a wildcard round match for the #5-seeded Owls. What transpired, though, was one of Laguna’s most dominant performances of the season.

Alex Furukawa, Kai Nakamura, and Victor Liu all swept their singles opponents, giving Laguna a significant edge, and the top doubles pairing of juniors Conor Scheinberg/Jason Barnick also swept while playing down at the #3 position. Kovid Mishra and Kelvin Chen added two sets, including a 6-2 victory over the Paso #1 team.

Laguna Blanca @ Carpinteria (11-7)

This was a very familiar match-up, as these teams play each other twice each season, but anything can happen in the playoffs and Carpinteria is known for making strategic lineup adjustments. Though Laguna had beaten the Warriors (10-8, 12-6), the win was not a given.

After the first round-of-play, the two teams were knotted in a 3-3 tie, with Laguna winning 2-of-3 in singles, while Carpinteria snagged 2-of-3 in doubles. In fact, the match remained tightly contested until Laguna freshman Kai Nakamura defeated junior Jeremy Saito to end the second round-of-play, giving Laguna a 7-5 lead. Nakamura and Saito had played an hour-long set in their last meeting, with Saito prevailing 10-8 in the tie-breaker, but this time Nakamura was more aggressive and confidently ended the set at 6-4.

In the third round, Alex Furukawa recorded a 6-4 win against Saito and Scheinberg/Barnick continued their streak of wins as the Owls’ top doubles team. Nakamura and Liu added wins at #2 and #3 singles to bring the score to 11-7.

Looking Ahead

The Owls play next on Friday, May 12th in the second round of CIF Playoffs against Cabrillo/Lompoc. Cabrillo finished the regular season 15-2 and beat Oakwood of Hollywood in the first round. The match will be held at Laguna Blanca at 3pm. Please come out and support the Owls as they look to reach the CIF Quarterfinals for the first time in team history!

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Laguna Blanca Tennis Now 10-3, Ranked #7 in CIF

With just three matches left, Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis continues to roll towards a CIF Playoff appearance. The team will need to win its final three matches to clinch a playoff spot. Here’s a quick recap of the last two weeks of play:

Laguna Blanca @ Foothill Tech (9-9, 72-68)

In what has been the closest match of the season, the Owls narrowly defeated a strong Foothill Tech team. The teams were evenly matched in the singles positions, with Alex Furukawa taking two wins and Victor Liu and Kai Nakamura pitched in wins over Foothill #3 player Ethan Wang.

Doubles was a lopsided affair, with the Foothill #1’s easily taking their three sets, while Laguna gave just a handful of games up against in the other six sets. In the end, the margin of victory on the doubles side of the match set Laguna up to win by four games.

Laguna Blanca v. Cate School (3-15)

The Cate School remains undefeated on the season, having already beaten Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, and Santa Barbara High Schools on the strength of the Ha brothers (Kevin, Ethan) in singles and a stellar #1 doubles pairing. This is the big year for Cate, as three of these four players will graduate or be ineligible for the 2018 season.

Although the score appears lopsided, the Owls took great satisfaction from the match, coming away with some high-quality experience and the knowledge that four of the lost sets were very evenly contested (6-7, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7). In particular, Laguna’s #1 doubles duo Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick impressed with their gutsy performances on the day, winning two sets and losing to Cate’s #1’s in a tie-break set.

Laguna Blanca v. Carpinteria (12-6)

In the first match of the season against Carpinteria, Laguna barely squeaked by with a 10-8 victory after struggling in doubles play. This time, with partnerships more settled, Laguna was able to take and hold a steady lead throughout the match.

Alex Furukawa was dominant at #1 singles, dropping just a couple games. Victor Liu also beat the Carpinteria #2 by a much greater margin than he had in the first match. Kai Nakamura nearly ended the match with a win over Jeremy Saito (Carp’s #1) after battling for nearly an hour to a 7-9 tie-break loss.

Laguna Blanca @ Thacher (4-14)

In what was a somewhat forgettable performance, Laguna failed to pull in a single set in doubles play. Singles play was more evenly matched, with Furukawa taking two wins and Liu and Nakamura each winning once and playing close sets against the Thacher #2. Thacher held a 7-1 record going into the match while playing a division above Laguna and their strength in depth was just too much for the Owls.

Laguna Blanca @ Lompoc (16-2)

The owls dominated every position in the lineup except at #2 doubles. Though the windy conditions played to the advantage of the home-team, the Owls brought too much experience to the match to be challenged. This win also marks the 10th victory of the season, making it five consecutive season the Owls have achieved double-digit wins. For more about past performances, check out the Laguna Blanca Team History page.

Looking Ahead

Laguna Varsity Boys’ Tennis faces three more opponents in the regular season, including two that have already been beaten by the Owls earlier in the year. Assuming a sweep of these matches, Laguna would finish the season 13-3, clinching a wildcard playoff berth with a more than 80% win-percentage. In addition, Laguna Blanca remains a top-10 ranked team in CIF D4, coming in at #7 in the most recent poll.

CIF April 24 Rankings

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Laguna Dominates Pacifica in 14-4 Rout

IMG_9128The last three matches between these teams have been decided by two sets or less, but this year the Owls were overwhelming in a comprehensive victory over the Tritons.

There’s a lot of youth and inexperience on the Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis team compared to recent years, but at 7-1 overall this season, the Owls are getting the job done and getting better rapidly. The timing couldn’t be better, with this week’s schedule featuring three solid opponents and Thacher plus Foothill Tech coming up next.

Laguna got three promising set wins from juniors Jason Barnick and Conor Scheinberg, who played the best doubles of the season, winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 over some quality opponents. Rhami Zeini also stood out today with his aggressive net play across three solid sets of play.

In singles today, Alex Furukawa swept 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and Victor Liu was absolutely dominant in two sets, beating Pacifica’s top two players 6-1, 6-0. Kovid Mishra also got in on the singles fun, taking Liu’s place in the third round and picking up a 6-4 victory. Kai Nakamura quietly continued his progression as a stand-out high school singles player with three set wins, bringing his record to 17-4 in singles on the season (18-4 overall).

In related news, there is a new theory and now even photographic evidence about who started “The Dab.” As it turns out, it was our very own freshman phenom, Kai Nakamura, who uses the popular dance move as part of his heavy top-spin forehand!

Kai Nakamura Laguna Blanca Tennis

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Laguna Moves to 6-1 with Wins over Nordhoff, Carpinteria, and Orcutt Academy

Laguna Blanca Boys Tennis 2017-3

The Owls have been proving that this season is more than just a rebuilding operation. Despite having not a single starting senior in the lineup, Laguna has steadily worked its way into relevance by defeating six-of-seven teams faced so far in the 2017 season. Here are the match recaps for the last three wins:

Laguna v. Orcutt Academy (12-6)

Laguna faced a lineup-stack from Orcutt, which translated to a sweep from Coast Union at #1 doubles. They also picked up some wins at the #2 doubles spot, but failed to draw blood in nine sets of singles play. Alex Furukawa, Kai Nakamura, and Conor Scheinberg lost just 5 of 59 games played in singles action.

Laguna benefitted greatly from two wins from Jason Barnick and Victor Liu, who recovered well after stumbling early against the Orcutt’s #1’s. Kovid Mishra’s killer backhand (pictured above) and Kevin Khodabandehlou’s steady play provided an additional set win (6-0 against Orcutt’s #3 doubles team).

Laguna @ Carpinteria (10-8)

The Owls had a very tight match with the Warriors from Carpinteria, with the edge going to Laguna through superior singles play. Alex Furukawa swept (6-1, 6-0, 6-0) and Victor Liu and Kai Nakamura each added two set wins. Victor Liu played his best match as an Owl, fighting deep into his second-round match against Carp’s second best player to pull out a 7-5 victory.

Doubles struggled against Carpinteria’s top two teams, unable to take a single set, but got by the Carp #3’s with relative ease to provide the three sets needed to clinch the match without counting up games.

Laguna v. Nordhoff (13-5)

Singles play was led again by junior Alex Furukawa, who won his sets 6-2, 6-0, 6-0. Freshman Kai Nakamura added a 6-2, 7-5, 6-0 sweep of his own. Alex and Kai were super-solid all day long. Nordhoff’s top two players were both very consistent, but our guys broke them down with a combination of steadiness and willingness to go on the attack at the right moments.

The Rangers’ top doubles pairing Mikel Elizalde and Elias Simon eked out a tight 7-5 tie-break win in the first round against Laguna’s Victor Liu and Jason Barnick en-route to a sweep on the day. Laguna won all the remaining doubles sets, with two wins from Liu/Barnick and another four wins spread across four doubles combinations including players: John-Henry Schulz, Kelvin Chen, Rhami Zeini, Kovid Mishra, Peter Smith, and Jack Stein.

Laguna, now 6-1, will face Oxnard/Pacifica High School at home on Thursday. The Owls dropped an 8-10 decision against Pacifica last year while playing short several players, but will look to flip the script with a full lineup this time around. Laguna will also face the Thacher school next Tuesday before the beginning of Spring Break.

IMG_9119

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Laguna Takes Two Victories in Two Days

Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis has moved to 3-1 this season with wins over St. Bonaventure at Ventura College on Monday and Coast Union today at Furukawa Tennis Garden in Hope Ranch.

Laguna Blanca @ St. Bonaventure (16-2)

Juniors Alex Furukawa and Jason Barnick made their season debuts in the singles lineup, alongside freshman Kai Nakamura, winning seven-of-nine sets. All three singles players won their sets against St. Bonaventure’s #2 and #3 singles players and Furukawa completed a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 sweep on the day.

In doubles play, Laguna recorded a flawless sweep from junior Conor Scheinberg and freshman Rhami Zeini (6-0, 6-0, 6-0) and junior Victor Liu and his partner freshman John-Henry Schulz also swept their matches in convincing fashion. Finally, junior Kelvin Chen paired twice with sophomore Kovid Mishra and in the third round with sophomore Jack Stein to also notch three wins on the day.

In the final round of play, Chen/Stein found themselves down 2-5 before winning every remaining game in the set to take a 7-5 victory.

Laguna Blanca v. Coast Union (15-3)

Today, Laguna again adjusted the lineup, with Victor Liu and Conor Scheinberg re-joining the singles lineup. The pair each swept their sets and Alex Furukawa won two sets at the #1 position before being substituted in the final round.

Doubles featured many lineup combinations and substitutions, but freshman duo John-Henry Schulz and Rhami Zeini stood out, with a quick win against Coast Union’s #2’s and then a closely fought 6-4 victory against the #1’s. Jason Barnick and Kai Nakamura also recorded a win over the Coast Union #1 team before being substituted out for the final two rounds.

Freshman Kevin Khodabandehlou made his season debut with Jack Stein, picking up a 6-2 win in doubles play. Another match that featured Laguna substitutes, junior Eric Qin and freshman Peter Smith pulled out a tie-break win (7-5) to end the match.

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis returns to play against Orcutt Academy this Friday at 3:30pm (home).

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Laguna Splits First Two Matches of Season

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis opened the 2017 season this week with a 12-6 win over Dunn at home and a 6-12 loss to Santa Ynez away.

Laguna Blanca v. Dunn (12-6)

Singles players Victor Liu (junior) and Kai Nakamura (freshman) picked up two wins apiece, defeating Dunn’s #2 and #3 singles players in convincing fashion. Junior Conor Scheinberg added a set in singles and also played a solid 2-6 set against undefeating Dunn #1 singles player Julian Deck.

In doubles, Laguna was led by junior Jason Barnick and freshman John-Henry Schulz, who swept their sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 at the #1 doubles position. Doubles pairing Peter Smith/Wesley Schulz added two set wins and Kovid Mishra/Jack Stein and Zane Mazor-Brown/Tony Xu chipped one set each at the #2 doubles position.

Laguna Blanca @ Santa Ynez (6-12)

In what was a challenging early-season match, Laguna was unable to match the depth of a balanced Santa Ynez team.

Kai Nakamura’s performance at #3 singles proved to be a significant bright spot, with the Laguna freshman notching two wins in three sets of play with very effective strategy execution. Victor Liu played a very close first-round set against the Santa Ynez #1 player Braxton Johnson, eventually succumbing 4-6, but also showing off improvements made during the off-season. Liu also managed to snag a set in the second round of play, beating Santa Ynez’s Robert Meyer 7-5.

Alex Furukawa made his season debut, coming over from soccer, winning two of three sets with partner John-Henry Schulz. Kelvin Chen also played in his first match of the season, partnering with Jason Barnick to win a set in the final round of play.

Laguna will play three times in the coming week:

Monday – @ St. Bonaventure (at Ventura College)
Tuesday – v. Coast Union
Friday – v. Orcutt Academy

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