Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis fielded its full starting lineup for the first time this season and took undefeated Cate School to the wire with an 8-10 loss.
How the match unfolded
The first round of play was a story of singles versus doubles. Cate swept the singles sets 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, while visiting Laguna Blanca matched the effort with 7-6, 6-1, 6-4 set-wins in doubles. The last match on court was the #1 doubles position, where former Laguna Blanca student Lucian Prinz looked to defeat his good friends Ryan Purkait and Nic Richmond, the #1 doubles team for the Owls. It was not to be though, as Purkait and Richmond won the “battle-of-the-buddies” to even the match at 3-3 after the opening round.
The second round opened with Laguna trailing by just a single game, in the event of a 9-9 tie, and it became clear that every set (and every game) would be critical. Cate struck first with a 6-0 victory from the #1 singles player Jin-Ming Wang, also a former Laguna student (and participant in a number of Thorpe Tennis after school programs). The Rams also registered a 6-0 victory from their #2 singles player against Laguna senior Andreas Jackson.
The Owls rallied, however, taking wins at #1 and #2 doubles in convincing fashion. Meanwhile, junior Kai Suzuki landed the first singles win for Laguna on the day with a 6-4 set over Cate’s #3 singles player, Will Vanica. Shortly thereafter, frosh combo Jake Gidney/Cody Busch-Weiss succumbed to the Cate #1’s, despite putting up a very respectable 3-6 set.
After two rounds of play, Laguna and Cate were locked in a 6-6 tie, with the Rams holding a narrow two-game advantage in the event of a tie. Cate struck first with Wang taking a 6-0 victory over a fading Suzuki, but Jackson lifted the Owls hopes with a 6-2 set over Vanica. In the remaining singles set, Laguna sophomore Aden Meisel battled back from 1-4 and 2-5 down to reach 4-5. The Cate #2 looked to be on the edge of collapse, but held it together to close out Meisel, leaving the score 7-8 with the three doubles sets still in action.
Over on the #2 doubles court, Ben Rodgers and Keanu Nakamura found themselves behind for the first time on the day. The pair looked solid in 6-1, 6-4 wins through the earlier rounds, but got down 0-3 against the Cate #1’s and could not pull it back.
Richmond and Purkait also found themselves ceding the first few games, but they rallied heartily and took the overall score to 8-9 winning six of the last eight games played. All attention turned to Laguna’s young #3 pairing playing against the Cate #2’s. Gidney and Busch-Weiss held their own, taking the Cate team to the limit, but in the end didn’t have enough to get the win. The Ram’s #2 duo clinched the 10-8 win with a 6-4 final set score.
Coach Thorpe’s Comments
This was an absolutely thrilling match to watch. Getting to be part of such a competitive high school match between two teams with a lot of depth was definitely the highlight of the season so far. Our guys were solid throughout.
Nic and Ryan were unbeatable at #1 doubles, Keanu overcame injury to partner with Ben and grab two key sets, and Jake and Cody showed that they can be competitive against even the toughest opponents. In singles, Andreas and Kai took big wins for us and Aden showed a lot of character the way he battled back and pushed is third opponent to the brink.
We took a big step forward as a team in this match, going toe-to-toe with a team we haven’t been able to defeat since 2013. That year, our #1 singles player was Tristan Prinz, older bro to Lucian Prinz, who was playing #1 doubles for Cate. Having coached the Prinz family since 2011, it was great to see Lucian closing out his senior season on a good level, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Ryan and Nic get the W at #1 doubles against him!
After last years “COVID season,” and having dealt with injury and illness amongst our top guys so far this season, this match has re-invigorated Owls Tennis and shown us the level we’re capable of. It has also re-ignited a healthy rivalry between Laguna and Cate boys’ tennis that looks set to continue next season, with both teams returning a number of key players.
What’s next for the Owls?
Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis will play their last match of the season on Wednesday, May 5th against visiting Villanova High School. Villanova features an undefeated #1 singles player and a second strong singles player, but the Owls have the depth to get the job done. Certainly, the very competitive match against Cate will have raised their level.