Cate girls’ tennis was unable to continue their CIF D2 playoff run today, losing a 7-11 decision against Riverside Poly. The match-up pitted a school of 280 against a school of 2,800 and the size-difference showed in depth.
We finally ran up against a team with no weak points. Throughout the year, we’ve always been able to shift our lineup around and use our versatility to overcome strong opponents, but this team was just too deep. They’re the three-time consecutive CIF D4 Runner-Up team, so they also have a wealth of experience.
In the first round of play, it was all Riverside Poly, who won each of the first six sets. Cate lost close matches at #1 and #2 singles and at #3 doubles, but across-the-board seemed a nervous to be playing this level of competition deep in the playoffs.
Round two went better for the Rams, who secured clutch wins from freshman Grace Fuss over senior Dani Baum (6-4) and junior Jackie Cai against junior Jalyn Kornblum 6-2. Kornblum is ranked nearly 200 places ahead of Cai in US national rankings, making this one of Cai’s biggest wins on the season.
Summer Christensen and Sarah Polowczak tried to regroup after suffering their first loss in team play in the first round, but after coming back from 3-5 down in the second set, suffered a tie-break defeat.
In the third round, down 2-10, Cate remained determined to make a match of the affair, and quickly picked up wins from Christensen/Polowczak against a Poly substitute team (6-2) and Eva Herman/Janice Ng defeated the Poly #3 team, playing some of their best tennis of the playoffs (6-1). For Christensen and Herman, this marked the final match (and win) of their high school careers in team play, though Christensen will go on to compete in CIF Individuals with Polowczak.
The last doubles match on-court was Cate’s #3 team of freshman Carol Cai and first-year varsity player Sydney Burton. The pair were the most consistent Cate team through the first two rounds of play and ended up playing their best match of the season against the Riverside Poly #1’s. While they eventually went down 5-7, Cai and Burton hinted at the continued potential of Cate tennis in the coming years.
In singles, Grace Fuss picked up a gritty 6-4 victory over senior Dyala Harb and Jackie Cai played her best tennis of the season in a 6-1 win over Dani Baum. That left just one match on-court, between senior Katherine Grossman (a first year varsity player) and Poly sub Lily Mitchell. Grossman completed the “Cate senior sweep” of the final round by winning a tie-break set.
Winning five out of the last six sets really helped us come out of this match with the right feeling. We played our hearts out every single match of the year, so it was nice to go down fighting in our last match of the season. Just like our other loss of the season, it didn’t really feel like a loss at all. I have nothing but pride for my girls and what they’ve accomplished this season and I have no doubt that they will use this experience to come back even stronger next year.