Owls’ Run Comes to an end in CIF Semifinals

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis finally met their match today, dropping a 7-11 decision at West Covina High School. The match decided which team would advance to the CIF Division Finals to play Geffen Academy, a 10-8 winner over Westminster High School.

How it Happened

The day was characterized by blustery conditions, with wind gusts reaching 30 miles-per-hour, but the tennis went on with intensity.

In the first round, Laguna banked dominant performances from Kai Suzuki and Cody Busch-Weiss at #1 doubles and Ben Rodgers and Davis Ohanian at the #2 spot. Junior Aden Meisel added a nice 6-2 set-win at the #3 singles position.

On the other side, West Covina relied upon strength at the #1 and #2 singles positions, including Adam Lee who as recently as a few months ago was ranked #210 in the country in his class. West Covina leveled the match at 3-3 with a 6-2 win at #3 doubles, the first time this playoffs that Laguna had lost a set against a #3 team.

Round two went sharply against the visiting Owls, with West Covina rapidly sweeping the singles and giving Rodgers and Ohanian their first loss of the playoffs. Suzuki and Busch-Weiss took care of business at the top spot, while Mason Berg and Jake Gidney lost a tight 4-6 set against the top team from West Covina.

With the match now slipping away (4-8) after two rounds, Laguna battled on. Senior Owen Pryor registered a 6-0 win to end his playing career, while senior team captions Ben Rodgers and Kai Suzuki each winning in similar fashion with their doubles partners. The Owls were stopped at 7 wins though, as West Covina picked up the other three sets and book their berth in the title match on Friday.

Coach’s Comments

West Covina is the first team we’ve played in the playoffs that didn’t really have any weak points in their lineup. We have been winning 7-8 sets in doubles, thanks to our depth, but we only got 5 today. They also had a very strong singles lineup, so there were very few easy points to put on the scoreboard.

I would have loved to see this very deserving group of guys get a chance to play in that title match on Friday, but I can’t be disappointed by the way they competed. We had a great post-season, and both in the 4 wins and this loss, we can be proud of our performance and the way we carried ourselves.

Owls Advance to Semifinals with 13-5 Win

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis will play in the CIF Semifinals for the first time in history after a 13-5 win against visiting Summit High School.

The win puts the Owls amongst the top four teams in CIF D5, alongside West Covina, Westminster, and Geffen Academy.

Summit entered the match as the #9-seed, with an impressive 21-2 record, while Laguna Blanca’s win-loss stood at 13-2.

How it Happened

In the first round, Summit struck first with a 6-1 victory at #1 singles, but Laguna fired back quickly with wins from Kai Suzuki/Cody Busch-Weiss and Ben Rodgers/Davis Ohanian at #1 and #2 doubles. These pairings remain undefeated across the 4 playoff matches, a devastating 1-2-punch that has been pivotal in Laguna’s advance to the semifinals.

Summit struck next with a 6-2 win at #2 singles over junior Kent Dunn, but his good friend and classmate Aden Meisel had the rebuttal ready as he took a comfortable 6-1 win at the #3 position. That left just the #3 doubles set on-court to decide the result of the first round-of-play.

Sophomores Mason Berg and Jake Gidney were locked in a tight battle with their Summit counterparts, going down early, but rallying to take a 5-4 lead with Berg serving.

As the sophomores looked to close out the set, the Summit team got tight with the calls, erasing an ace that would become a double fault at 30-15. There were even calls from the Summit sideline to change the call, but the call stood and Laguna was forced to ask for a line-judge for the first time in the entire season.

Upon restarting the match at 30-all, Berg and Gidney were lazer-focused and quickly took the set with a poach-winner and an unreturnable serve. The 6-4 set gave Laguna a 4-2 lead after the first round-of-play and set the table for what was to become a dominant all-around performance throughout the rest of the match.

On the back of a stellar 6-0 performance from Aden Meisel against the Summit #2, the Owls took the second round 5-1. Senior Owen Pryor added a 6-1 victory and the doubles lineup remained unblemished on the day.

With a 9-3 score and the match all but locked up, Laguna Blanca continued to play hard, taking advantage of every opportunity to hone skills and strategy that will help in the remainder of this season’s playoffs. Owen Pryor took a second win on the day and Kent Dunn chipped in with a 6-1 win over the Summit #3. In doubles, Suzuki/Busch-Weiss and Rodgers/Ohanian cruised, while Berg/Gidney nearly upset the Summit #1 team, conceding 4-6 in the end.

Coach’s Comments

In our pre-match warmup, we always end with a drill called the volley-weave. Today, we made 22-consecutive shots in that drill, with the opposing team looking on. We could hear the other team making nervous comments when we finished and I could sense we’d be bringing our top-level to this match.

This team has arrived. The guys clearly now believe they can go all the way in this CIF Playoffs. It’s something I knew they were capable of as we gathered in mid-February for the pre-season meeting. These guys have worked very hard to get from there to here, and I’m so proud of the poise they have been showing throughout the playoffs.

Also, I want to give a shout-out to parent-support throughout the season, but particularly today. The mango-game was incredibly strong today, which fortified us with the extra energy needed to close out our 4th match-win in 5 school days.

What’s Next for Owls Tennis?

Laguna Blanca will play at West Covina High School at 3pm on Wednesday, May 11th for a shot at the title match in Claremont on Friday.

Owls Fly into CIF Quarterfinals

Laguna Blanca took an 11-7 victory at Schurr High School in Montebello on Friday afternoon. The win means a return to the CIF Quarterfinals for the third consecutive full season (2020 and 2021 were incomplete due to COVID).

The Owls relied on eight set-wins in doubles, where both Kai Suzuki/Cody Busch-Weiss and Ben Rodgers/Davis Ohanian remain undefeated in post-season play.

Senior George Nicks got the call to the starting lineup for the second time this playoffs, pairing with sophomore Mason Berg for two wins on the day.

In singles, Laguna faced a strong Schurr lineup, but managed to sweep the number three singles player. Owen Pryor, Kent Dunn, and Aden Meisel all played fiercely, getting stronger throughout the match.

Coach’s Comments

This match was a total dog-fight in the best possible sense. The singles matches were full of long, high-intensity points. Owen had one point in the first game that went on for several minutes. In a pure battle of wills, he wasn’t about to be the first to flinch, and eventually forced the error from his opponent.

In doubles, we keep getting more dialed as partnerships continue to grow and I loved our aggressiveness at the net in this match.

What’s next for the Owls?

Laguna Blanca will play again on Monday, 3pm at home against the winner of La Salle and Summit high schools.

Laguna Cruises to 15-3 Win in CIF First Round

The Owls took a comfortable victory over visiting Chaffey High School today, dropping just three sets. The win followed a 14-4 result in the Wild Card round against El Monte, bringing the season record to 12-2.

How it Happened

Laguna’s doubles lineup was led by senior Kai Suzuki and junior Cody Busch-Weiss, who took a 7-5 tie-break win over the Chaffey #1’s in the first round before cruising to a pair of 6-1 victories in the remaining rounds.

Senior/freshman combo Ben Rodgers and Davis Ohanian continued their strong play, beating the top two teams from Chaffey 6-2, 6-0, before senior George Nicks took over for Ohanian in the third round for a 6-1 win. Sophomores Mason Berg and Jake Gidney went 2-1 on the day.

Owen Pryor, a senior standout for the Owls, finished 2-0 on the day from the top slot in the lineup, while junior Kent Dunn was 2-1, including a win over the Chaffey #1. Junior Aden Meisel slotted back into the singles lineup for the first time in a few weeks and collected a 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 sweep on the day.

Coach’s Comments

After our trip out to East LA yesterday, we got to play at home today, which was a welcome relief. Chaffey had to make a similar drive and that’s never easy, but it was another fun match all-around. We’re obviously thrilled to be coming out with a win, but I’m also pleased with the quality of our play and the good-natured competition we’ve experienced so far this playoffs. It’s fun to play teams we wouldn’t normally come into contact with and to see how we compare to schools from other parts of Southern California.

In singles, I was particularly pleased to see Aden playing so well after his recent foray into the doubles lineup. Moving Kai into the doubles lineup allows us to take advantage of his skills at the net, and it’s good to see that Aden is ready to step up for us if needed in the singles lineup again.

In doubles, I thought Ben and Davis looked ferocious today. They served well and smothered the net, poaching aggressively and really taking the match by the reins. They’re a doubles pairing that are capable of beating anything our next few opponents send our way.

What’s Next for the Owls?

Laguna will play away on Friday against the winner of the match between Whittier and Schurr high schools, which means another long day of travel, but hopefully one that will be rewarded with a berth in the CIF Quarterfinals.

Owls Open CIF Playoffs as #1 Seed, Take 14-4 Win

The Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis team took a 14-4 road win over El Monte High School on Tuesday afternoon to begin the CIF Division Playoffs.

The Owls took 8-of-9 sets in doubles, including sweeps from Ben Rodgers/Davis Ohanian and Aden Meisel/Cody Busch-Weiss. George Nicks and Mason Berg added 2 sets, with their lone loss a tight 4-6 set against the El Monte #1’s.

In singles, senior Owen Pryor swept his sets for the owls, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-1. Junior Kent Dunn added 2 wins, while senior captain Kai Suzuki was 1-1 on the day before being substituted out.

After moving up to the #2-ranked team in CIF Division 5 in the final two weeks of the season, Laguna now find themselves at the top of the draw in the #1 position after #1 Roosevelt High School failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Coach’s Comments:

It was a long drive out to East LA, but the guys came ready to play today. We thoroughly enjoyed this first match in what we’re hoping will be a long playoff run. Our opponents were solid players and a lot of fun to play, so I think it’s a great match to have under our belts.

What’s Next for the Owls?

Laguna will play again at home on Wednesday, May 4th at 3pm. The visiting team is Chaffey High School from the Ontario area, who defeated Rim of the World High School 76-70 on games after tying 9-9 in sets.

Laguna Blanca Finishes Regular Season 10-2, #3 in CIF D5

The Owls came up against some strong competition in league play in the second half of the season, but have managed to secure 3rd place in the Tai-Valley League. With that, Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis has also clinched a spot in the CIF Playoffs, where they are currently seeded third in Division 5.

Next up for the Owls will be Tri-Valley League Individuals at 1pm on Tuesday at the Cate School in Carpinteria. The following week will see the beginning of CIF Playoffs, with draws available on Monday, May 2nd.

Laguna Blanca v Thacher, 5-13 loss

The Owls faced a 3-1 Thacher team that had been building momentum, just two days after the end of spring break. While the match was initially close, tied 3-3 after the first round, the Toads picked up steam as play continued, while the Owls faded.

Laguna Blanca @ Bishop Diego, 14-4 win

The win was spear-headed by doubles play, where seniors Owen Pryor and George Nicks took 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 wins and junior/sophomore duo Cody Busch-Weiss and Jake Gidney also swept.

Senior captain Ben Rodgers went 2-0 on the day with his usual partner, freshman Davis Ohanian, before being substituted out for the third round. Freshman Lucas Ayala played with Ohanian in the third round, losing a tight tie-break set. The pair saved four set points before succumbing 6-8.

In singles, Bishop exchange student Gio Basocco of Italy won his three sets, while Laguna took the remaining six sets. Juniors Aden Meisel and Kent Dunn and sophomore Mason Berg all went 2-1 on the day for Laguna Blanca in the singles lineup.

Coach’s Comments: “We came with a lot of energy today, which was great to see after our first loss of the season on Tuesday. Thacher caught us on day two after a two-week spring break and although we didn’t play poorly, we lacked some of the spark that had carried us through a number of close matches in the first half of the season. This match against Bishop Diego was a good one to get the ship pointed in the right direction again as we head into a three-match week next week.”

Laguna Blanca @ Cabrillo/Lompoc, 18-0 win

Laguna dominated the early play, taking a 5-0 lead before play was stopped due to rain. Cabrillo agreed to forfeit the remaining matches.

Laguna Blanca @ St. Bonaventure, 15-3 win

The Owls took a dominant 15-3 win over short-handed St. Bonaventure. The doubles lineup registered a clean sweep, dropping just eight games in total.

Laguna Blanca v Cate School, 1-17 loss

Laguna looked competitive in a number of sets, but had trouble maintaining the level of the very strong D3 Cate team in the second half of sets. Ben Rodgers and Davis Ohanian took the lone win in doubles, and also battled to two tie-break losses in their other sets, proving they are amongst the best doubles teams in the Tri-Valley League.

Laguna Blanca @ Foothill Tech, 12-6 win

Laguna took 8-of-9 sets in doubles, dominating the net and showing strength in depth. Senior Ben Rodgers and freshman Davis Ohanian continued their strong play at the #1 position, while Aden Meisel dropped from the singles lineup to pair with fellow junior Cody Busch-Weiss. The new pairing shot out the gates with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 showing on the day. Sophomores Jake Gidney and Mason Berg also paired together for the first time, taking two set-wins at the #3 doubles position.

In singles, all three Laguna players were able to get past the Foothill #3, with senior Owen Pryor taking a huge win over Foothill’s nationally-ranked #1 singles player Shaurya Shyam to finish 2-1 on the day.

Senior Kai Suzuki started slow but was dominant in the third round to take his win, while junior Kent Dunn played his best tennis of the season to beat the #3 in the first round and play very competitive sets in the remaining two.

Coach’s Comments: “This match was the biggest win of the season for us. Foothill was missing a key singles player, but even with him in the lineup we would have been competitive, because the guys were playing so well. We really rose to the occasion as a team today. It’s a great sign as we head into the playoffs.”

Laguna Blanca @ Dunn School, 17-1 win

The Owls finished regular season play with a new lineup, featuring sweeps from Davis Ohanian, Cody Busch-Weiss, and Mason Berg in singles. In doubles play, seniors Ben Rodgers and Owen Pryor held down the #1 spot, with juniors Aden Meisel and Kent Dunn dominating at #2, and senior/freshman combo Kai Suzuki and Lucas Ayala picking up two wins and a close 6-8 tie-break loss at #3.

Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis Heads to Spring Break Undefeated!

The Owls have been impressive in the opening matches of the season, going 4-0 against non-league opponents and opening the Tri-Valley League season with a win over Villanova Prep yesterday. At 5-0 overall, and with quality wins over Santa Barbara High, Malibu High, Carpinteria High, Laguna is making a strong case for a high ranking in CIF D5.

Laguna Blanca @ Villanova Prep: 11-7 Win

In the first Tri-Valley League match of the season, the Owls were led by a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 showing from Ben Rodgers and Davis Ohanian at number one doubles. Laguna doubles teams of Cody Busch-Weiss/Jake Gidney and George Nicks/Mason Berg added two set-wins each to total seven sets in doubles play.

Laguna senior Owen Pryor continues to shine in his new singles role, going 2-1 on the day. Juniors Aden Meisel and Kent Dunn each added a set, bringing the singles total to four.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments:

Owen was an absolute animal today. He chased down every ball relentlessly, showing his athleticism and determination. He nearly went 3-0, only losing a 7-4 tie-breaker against the top player from Villanova and those games were crucial had we ended up in a 9-9 match situation. We definitely couldn’t have won today without him today.

I also want to give a lot of credit to another senior, George Nicks, who stepped into the doubles lineup at the last minute when we had a late scratch. George partnered with Mason for the first time and they picked up two wins that we absolutely had to have; it’s good to know everyone is ready.

In general, that’s the sense I get from this team. Everyone is ready to play whatever role I need from them on any particular day and that’s a dream-situation for a coach!

What’s Next for the Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis?

Laguna will now have a two-week spring break, followed by an almost immediate return to Tri-Valley League competition at home against Thacher on April 5th.

Winter Sabbatical Announcement

Dear Thorpe Tennis Community,

I want to let you know that I’ll be taking a “sabbatical” from Thorpe Tennis this winter to focus on other projects. I plan to be away from November 15th until the first week of February (with a few exceptions listed below).

As some of you already know, I’ve got a growing vacation rental business called Casas Thorpe. The project is currently composed of one house here in Santa Barbara and two houses in Merida, Mexico. Later this month, I’ll be adding two more Merida properties to my portfolio for a total of 14 bedrooms under management across five properties. 

The early months are crucial for new properties and require my physical presence for redesign and prep work for the Airbnb market. Last summer when I added two properties to the portfolio while trying to maintain my teaching schedule in SB it was truly exhausting! Working 16 hours-a-day is not what most people do when visiting Mexico, but that’s what I did several times in order to be back here teaching with some regularity.

In addition, I am looking to expand to other markets and I have a personal life-goal to improve my Spanish to reach a conversational level. I feel that the rainy months, holidays, and days with the least light are the right time to be away from SB for an extended period and so I ask for your understanding.

After 11 years of being a 7-days-a-week tennis coach and taking breaks basically only when my students did, the 6-week forced layoff I experienced at the beginning of COVID reminded me that I should be intentional with my time and energy when I can control it. Now, a year-and-a-half later, I am continuing to build my ideal life.

What I am definitely not doing is signaling the coming end to my tennis coaching in Santa Barbara because I consider Thorpe Tennis and all of you wonderful people a crucial part of that ideal life. I gave my 20’s and early 30’s to this, but it has given me even more. I love my students. I love my high school teams. I love teaching. I love being part of the growth of other people and being in service to others is a key tenet of my personal ethos.

With that in mind, although I’ll be based in Mexico this winter, I will come back for several short periods to maintain continuity. The dates I’ve already set and for which you may book lessons whenever you’re ready are: November 27-December 1 and January 14-17 (I may add one more period between those two). In particular, I plan to host my traditional Thanksgiving Weekend Group Session on Saturday, November 27th, so mark your calendars!

Warm Regards,

TT

Cate Girls Fall 6-12 to Windward in D3 Playoffs

Cate Girls’ Tennis was dealt a tough draw in this year’s CIF Division 3 Playoffs, but battled gamely throughout the day.

Windward was seeded #8 in the division, but finished third in their league behind Campbell Hall (#2 seed in CIF D2) and Brentwood (D1 playoff team). They also took a win earlier this season against The Geffen School (#2 seed in D4).

In the end, Cate was unable to overcome the challenge from visiting Windward, dropping a 6-12 contest that also marks the end of the season for the Rams.

How it happened

Round 1 perhaps showed the difference in experience between a Windward team that had consistently faced elite-level opponents and a Cate team that played only two close matches on the season. Cate fell behind on every court in the opening minutes of the match and by the time the home team started to find their footing, they faced a significant deficit to battle back. Sophomore Frances Davis brought in the lone win of the first round in the sixth set, with her 6-3 victory at #3 singles.

As the match went on, Cate continued to close the gap in performance, with senior Aminah Hill taking a 6-2 victory in the second round in singles and all three doubles matches going to 3-3 simultaneously at one point in the round. In the end, Cate was only able to add one more set in Round 2, with senior Emily May and junior Ella Chang recording a 6-3 win over the Windward #2 team.

Round three was the most balanced on the day, with Cate and Windward trading set wins back and forth. Senior Julianna Forry and junior Ellie Tunnell led with a 6-2 win over the #1 doubles team, while sophomore Alyna Takahashi rattled off five consecutive points from 0-40 down in the deciding game of her 6-4 set win against the Windward #3. After Hill dropped a tight 5-7 tie-breaker to the #2, senior Ashi Kamra and freshman Colette Chang were the final match of the season for Cate tennis.

Kamra and Chang, who recently earned Tri-Valley League First-Team Doubles honors in the league tournament, fell behind 1-4 in the set. However, the pair, rallied, refusing to surrender the final match of the season, which would also be Kamra’s last for the Rams. The duo responded with three quick games to level the set at 4-4, before a more even back-and-forth ensued. In the end, Kamra and Chang would not be denied, taking a 7-5 set-win against the Windward #2 team and ending the season on a happy note.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments:

We lost. It’s a bummer. It would have been nice to meet such a strong opponent as Windward a bit later in the draw, but you’d be totally mistaken to think we didn’t enjoy every minute of the match today.

What I witnessed was Cate Girls’ Tennis battling it out to the bitter end together. Our team did a phenomenal job of supporting each other, giving everything and using all we’d been learning across the season to the maximum of what we had to offer on the day. That’s what this is about.

Every starter put a win on the scoreboard today, but more importantly, every member of this team got to be part of something very special: a real TEAM. It was a total honor to be the coach that got to witness it all season long.

Cate Finishes Regular Season 8-2, 7-1 in League

Cate Girls’ Tennis split a pair of matches on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, dropping a 14-4 decision against San Marcos before rallying to a 17-1 victory over St. Bonaventure on Senior Day.

Cate played solidly in the first round against 14-0 San Marcos High School, with the match hanging at 2-3 with a tie-breaker under way at #3 doubles. In the end, the partnership of Julianna Forry and Ellie Tunnell wasn’t quite enough to overcome a stacked #3 San Marcos team, dropping the tie-breaker 6-8.

The trend of closer sets going in San Marcos’ favor continued in the remaining two rounds, with Cate dropping 4 more sets that went 4-6 or 5-7, managing to only snag two more set-wins (both in the second round). The top performer on the day was senior captain Aminah Hill, who picked up two wins and played a solid 3-6 set against Natasha Gill, the top San Marcos player.

The St. Bonaventure match was a different affair altogether, with a total of 16 Cate students (including four JV players) participating in the 17-1 victory. Junior Ellie Tunnell went 3-0 on the day, as did sophomore Sophie Alijani, as the only two Cate students to play all three rounds.

Senior captains Aminah Hill and Emily May won their doubles matches 6-0, 6-0, while senior Ashi Kamra took Hill’s place at #1 singles and went 6-1, 6-1 on the day. The fourth Cate senior, Julianna Forry, won her lone set on the day playing at #2 doubles with Alijani by a 6-2 score.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments:

The St. Bonny match was a real joy to participate in, with so many parents around for parents’ weekend and so many of our girls able to be involved in the match. It’s always fun to switch up the lineup, and the truth is, the way we practice and learn cohesive strategy (particularly in doubles), the new roles tend to come easily to the girls. I’m also happy to see that our top JV girls have improved this season and hopefully one or two of them will reach the next level and join us on varsity next season.

As far as the San Marcos match goes, I feel that match was just what we needed as we turn our attention towards the high level competition of individuals and team playoffs. San Marcos the #5-seeded team in D2, so I see that team as equivalent to the best we could potentially face in our D3 playoffs next week.

I have seen time and time again at Cate that when these girls are challenged and take a tough loss, they take the experience well and are better the next time. For example, we turned a 5-13 loss against Foothill Tech earlier this season into an 11-7 win just a few weeks later.

Going farther back, we moved from D4 to D2 in 2014 after a CIF QF appearance, and struggled with the higher level in the playoffs the following season. However, in 2016 and 2017 we rallied, reaching the CIF D2 QF’s and earning our spot amongst the top teams in California in D1 for 2018-2020.

As I try to tell my teams every year, the latin root of the word competition means “to seek together.” This means the goal of competition is to push your opponent to their best and have them do the same for you, which results in everyone rising to their full potential. When you take this approach, it’s hard to be disappointed in a hard-fought loss like our match against San Marcos, because we earned ourselves access to that higher potential level for the future.

What’s next for Cate Girls’ Tennis?

Cate fields two singles players and two doubles teams in the Tri-Valley League Individuals Tournament today at Thacher School. Aminah Hill and Alyna Takahashi enter the draw as #3 and #4 seeds, respectively. In doubles Emily May/Ella Chang are the #2 seeds, while Ashi Kamra/Colette Chang enter the draw at #3.