Cate Girls’ Tennis Back to Winning Ways with 16-2 Romp

Despite just three days of practice, Cate Girls’ Tennis got off to a winning start today against Rio Mesa High School.

How it happened

The first round was an almost blemishless performance, with Cate dropping just five games en-route to a 6-0 lead in the match. Caroline Batchelder took the late call-up when another player had to pull out of the match and took an impressive 6-0 victory at #3 singles. In doubles action, after some lineup shuffling, freshman Colette Chang partnered with her older sister Ella took take an equally convincing 6-0 victory at #1 doubles.

It was more of the same at the match continued, with Cate rolling 5-1 in rounds two and three.

Hard-hitting #1 singles player Aminah Hill recorded an elusive golden set in the second round, winning 24 consecutive points. Ellie Tunnell had a battle in the first round, but was too much for the Rio Mesa #2 and #3 players, taking her sets 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 on the day.

In doubles, the Chang sisters completed the sweep on the day, while partners Julianna Forry/Maesa Vongkusolkit and Nikita Nautiyal/Sophie Alijani also finished the day 3-0.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments

I was really pleased with the way the girls responded to some last minute lineup changes and just to playing a match on the 4th day of the season. We practiced well so far this week, so I had a feeling we’d come out firing, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to struggle with some early-season nerves. Best of all, I noticed everyone on the team applying the things we worked on in practice. That’s a very strong sign for what’s to come this season.

What’s next for Cate Girls’ Tennis?

Cate will have a long interlude following opening of the academic year next week and outings trips, but will return to match-play on September 17 against league opponent Providence High School. The match will be played on Cate Mesa at 3:15pm.

Laguna Doubles Teams Finish 3rd and 4th in TVL League Individuals

After coming in with the #1 and #4 seeds in the doubles draw of the Tri-Valley League Individuals tournament, the Owls managed to snag third and fourth this week to end the 2021 season.

TVL Individuals, Early Rounds

Laguna Blanca School fielded the 11-1 senior doubles team of Ryan Purkait and Nic Richmond as the #1 seed in the tournament. As such, they were the last doubles team to take the courts on what was an unusually mild May day in Ojai, where Villanova played host.

Before Purkait and Richmond got to start their tournament, freshman/junior combo Keanu Nakamura/Ben Rodgers opened play as the #4 seed (5-1 in league play). Their seeding resulted in a very tough first-round match-up against Cate #3 singles player Will Vanica and freshman standout doubles player Ethan Bloom.

The fourth-seeded Owls team came through with a decisive 6-4, 6-3 victory over the Cate team, leading the entire match. This set up a semifinal clash with the only undefeated team in the draw, Foothill Tech’s #1 doubles team. Meanwhile, Laguna Blanca’s singles entrants Kai Suzuki and Aden Meisel fought gamely in the play-in round, but were unable to defeat their opponents in 8-game pro-sets.

Meisel got off to a rough start, dropping three games quickly, before changing strategies and taking four of the next nine games to lose 4-8. Suzuki played very well in the early-going, taking a 6-3 lead over Foothill Tech’s James Sokoloski, but the Laguna junior struggled to close the match out and faded to a 6-8 loss.

TVL Individuals, Later Rounds

Purkait and Richmond won their quarterfinal match against the Villanova #1 doubles team 6-4, 6-4, but looked far from their dominant regular-season best. This manifested itself again in their semifinal match against #3-seeded Cate seniors Lucian Prinz and Michael Armstrong, who they had defeated early in the season.

After taking a 5-2 lead in the first set, the Owls senior duo struggled with execution, seeing the Cate team recover for a 7-5 win and go up 5-2 in the second. Purkait and Richmond rallied to 4-5, but could not force the third set from Prinz and Armstrong, who closed the match out with a hold-of-serve.

Nakamura and Rodgers faced a stiff challenge from the top Foothill Tech team, who would go on to become this year’s league champions with a win over Prinz/Armstrong. The team of Pascal Hayward and Eesh Manwani played a very loud and aggressive style, and though the Laguna boys pushed Hayward and Manwani with many excellent points, they eventually fell 6-4, 6-3.

TVL Individuals, Laguna v. Laguna

The proceedings of Day One of the Tri-Valley League Individuals Tournament led to a matchup between the two Laguna teams for 3rd place in league and the final All-League First-Team designation.

Played at Furukawa Tennis Gardens on the Laguna Blanca campus, 3rd place match saw a resurgence from Nic Richmond and Ryan Purkait, who reversed a loss from earlier in the week to their younger teammates in practice. The seniors regained their best tennis to defeat Rodgers and Nakamura by a final score of 6-4, 6-1.

The result is Richmond and Purkait picking up All-League First-Team honors for the first time as they move on to college, while Rodgers and Nakamura get their first All-League Second-Team honors. Certainly the younger duo will be in the mix for future Tri-Valley League honors.

Cate Girls Take TVL Doubles Title

Senior Fritze Mayer and junior Emily May defeated the English sisters of Foothill Tech 6-3, 6-0 at the Cate School to land their first league title.

Mayer and May close the season 16-0 and continue a Cate streak of four consecutive Tri-Valley League doubles titles.

While the singles league title remains elusive for the Servons, Cate’s #1 singles player Aminah Hill was absolutely devastating in her 6-0, 6-0 victory today to take third place and earn herself All-League First-Team honors.

Senior Yuki Kobayashi and junior Ashi Kamra recovered from a tough tie-break loss in the first set to take third place in the league doubles draw (6-7, 6-0, 10-3). Kamra earned TVL All-League First -Team honors last season with Mayer, while this is Kobayashi’s first time receiving All-League First-Team honors.

The three victories today end Cate’s COVID-shortened season on a high note and bring momentum for the team going into the 2021 fall season in just a few short months.

Owls Get Big Win Over Villanova to End Season

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis picked up their best win of the season in their final league match, taking a 12-6 victory over visiting Villanova.

How the Match Unfolded

The Owls struck first with 6-0 victories from Aden Meisel at #3 singles and from Ben Rodgers/Keanu Nakamura at #3 doubles. Seniors Nic Richmond and Ryan Purkait continued their dominance over Tai-Valley League opponents with a 6-3 win over the Villanova #1’s before Timmy Quest finally broke the Laguna stranglehold on the match with a victory at #1 singles.

Junior Kai Suzuki and sophomore/freshman combo Cody Busch-Weiss/Jake Gidney found themselves locked in tight sets at the #2 positions. Suzuki squandered a 5-2 lead, going down 5-6 before righting the ship and taking a gutsy 7-2 tie-breaker against Tristan Montecino, a tournament-level player at Nova #2. Busch-Weiss and Gidney rallied to take their own tie-breaker, winning 8-6 and giving Laguna a 5-1 lead after the first round-of-play.

Laguna continued to roll in doubles, finishing with a eight sets on the day, while the singles results were more mixed. Meisel and senior Andreas Jackson both battled to 4-6 losses against Montecino and Quest, currently ranked in the top-200 in the country was unstoppable. However, Jackson and third-round substitute George Nicks both took wins against the Villanova #3 position to bring the singles to 4-5 overall and assure a healthy victory margin for the Owls.

The win means the Owls finish the season with a winning record for the 10th consecutive year, going 3-2 in what was a COVID-shortened season.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments

This was definitely our strongest showing on the season. We were disappointed to be short our two strongest players in our match against Foothill Tech a few weeks back and they managed to get to our Cate match last week, but had to play on guts alone after two weeks off the courts. Now that we’re back to full strength and had that tight Cate match under our belts, I had a feeling the guys were going to pick up a big win today and they did not disappoint!.

Villanova has two very strong singles players and they’d gone 8-10 against Cate just like us, so I honestly thought there was a good chance we’d be counting games at the end of the day to decide the winner. We really showed our depth though, with doubles utterly dominant and singles holding their own. Kai played like an absolute beast early against their #2, but it was the way he recomposed himself when he lost the 5-2 lead and faced a match point that impressed me most.

What’s Next for the Owls

While the team season is now complete, a small contingent of players will continue on to Tai-Valley League Individuals next Wednesday at Villanova High School, where Richmond and Nicks are likely to be the #1 seed in the doubles draw.

Laguna Boys Drop 8-10 Cliff-Hanger at Cate School

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.

Cate Girls Record Clean Sweep in Final Tri-Valley League Match

Cate moves to 4-1 on the season with an 18-0 victory at Villanova High School today in Ojai.

It was the final league match of the season and therefore that last official match for senior captains Fritze Mayer and Yuki Kobayashi. Madeline Vanica will also graduate from the program this season, after being a four-year varsity player.

Mayer and partner Emily May continued their unbeaten streak this season (13-0) without dropping a single game. Kobayashi partnered with Nikita Nautiyal at the #2 spot and Julianna Forry and Sophie Alijani played #3 in what was a 9-0 doubles win for the Servons.

In singles, Aminah Hill and Caroline Batchelder shared the #1 slot, with Hill taking a 6-0 first-round win, while Batchelder took 7-6 and 6-1 victories in the remaining rounds.

junior Ellie Tunnell and sophomore Ella Chang also took convincing wins in singles play, dropping just six games between them in six sets-of-play.

Cate will play an exhibition match at Thacher on Saturday at 3pm before turning their attention towards league individuals on Monday.

Cate’s 44-Match Win-Streak Snapped by Strong Foothill Tech Singles Lineup

Cate Girls’ Tennis lost a league match for the first time since October of 2014 today while playing visiting Foothill Tech. The match was a cliff-hanger until the third round-of-play, but in the end, the Servons came up short in a 7-11 defeat.

How the match unfolded

Foothill Tech fielded a lineup featuring several several seniors who will be playing at the D3 level in college next year, as well as a third tournament-level player. The formidable singles lineup left Cate as the considerable underdog coming into the match, but Cate pushed the Dragons to their limit.

The first round of play ended in a draw, with Foothill Tech sweeping singles play 6-1, 6-0, 6-1. Cate fired off a similarly dominant performance in doubles, taking three wins of their own (6-0, 6-1, 6-3).

In the second round-of-play, it was much the same, with Cate dominating against Foothill’s #2 and #3 doubles lines, while the Dragons picked up 6-0, 6-0 wins from their #1 and #2 singles players. Junior Aminah Hill broke through with a 6-3 victory playing against the #3 singles opponent, but senior Yuki Kobayashi and junior Ashi Kamra dropped a 4-1 lead against the Foothill #1’s in a 5-7 defeat.

The Foothill #1 doubles team got hot after their comeback and took a 6-1 victory over junior/sophomore combo Julianna Forry/Ella Chang, who had registered quick wins in their first two rounds.

Senior Fritze Mayer and junior Emily May finished the day undefeated with 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 victories to move to 10-0 on the season, but it wasn’t enough for the Servons, who lost 2 doubles matches in the final round.

Despite a mathematically inevitability of losing games, Aminah Hill and Ellie Tunnell battled on to try for a 9-9 tie in the last two matches on-court. Tunnell came back from 0-4 to fall just short at 4-6, while Hill, dropped her final set against the UC Santa Cruz-bound Jolie Seemayer 5-7.

Coaches Thorpe’s Comments

Our streak came to an end, but we competed hard and showed our character. The girls were both fierce competitors and exhibited exceptional sportsmanship. Sometimes you learn more in defeat than in victory, and what was revealed today leaves me feeling very proud as a coach. We faced a tough opponent who took a well-deserved win from us today, but I feel strongly that this match will be a big motivator for us going forward as a team and we’ll be looking forward to the rematch in the fall!

What’s Next for Cate Girls’ Tennis

Cate plays its next few matches in Ojai, with Villanova High School on Thursday at 3:30pm, followed by an exhibition match against Thacher on Saturday at 3pm.

Match Week 2: Cate Girls Go 2-0, Laguna Boys split while playing short-handed

It was a busy week for Coach Thorpe, with four matches in five days that also included a match between Cate and Laguna Blanca, but there will be little respite as the same is scheduled for the following week. On to the recaps!

Monday, April 19: Cate d. Providence 14-4

Cate Girls’ Tennis played Providence High School for the first time and came out with a convincing victory. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, April 21: Foothill Tech d. Laguna Blanca 12-6

The Owls took their first defeat of the season while playing short-handed. Freshman #1 Keanu Nakamura lost a tight 4-6 set in the first round before subbing out and Laguna struggled for wins in singles. Senior Andreas Jackson picked up the lone win with a 6-2 victory against the Dragons #3 player.

In doubles, the Owls faired much better, taking 5-of-9 sets despite going winless against Foothill’s #1 team.

Senior combo Ryan Purkait and Nic Richmond took 6-1, 6-0 victories and junior/sophomore combo Ben Rodgers and Aden Meisel added two wins. In the first round, Rodgers and Meisel battled to an 11-9 tie-break win against the Foothill #2 before cruising to a 6-0 win in the third round. George Nicks and Cody Busch-Weiss added a 6-4 set against the #3’s to the Laguna win-column.

Thursday, April 22: Cate d. Laguna Blanca 12-6

Despite winning just one game in three sets against Laguna’s freshman #1 Mina Yazadzhiev, Cate managed to put another match in the win column.

Buoyed by sweeps at #1 and #2 doubles, Cate finished the match with seven wins in doubles and five in singles for a 12-6 final score.

Senior Fritze Mayer and junior Emily May won their sets 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 to move to 7-0 on the season, while senior/junior combo Yuki Kobayashi and Ashi Kamra won 6-4, 6-0, 6-1. Kamra is now a perfect 9-0 on the season. Julianna Forry and Sophie Alijani added a 7-5 win in the first round.

Juniors Aminah Hill and Ellie Tunnell each finished the day 2-1, while sophomore Ella Chang rallied from losses in the first two rounds to defeat the Laguna #2 6-3 in the final round of play.

Cate moves to 3-0 with the win and will play next on Monday, April 26th against an undefeated Foothill Tech team that threatens to end a 44-match win-streak in Tri-Valley League play that stretches all the way back to 2014.

Friday, April 23: Laguna Blanca d. St. Bonaventure 14-4

The Owls tasted victory for the second time this season (2-1 overall) with a convincing victory over short-handed St. Bonny, who had to forfeit all three rounds at #2 and #3 doubles. The match was anything but boring though, as Bonny fielded a solid singles lineup and a determined #1 doubles team.

The stand-out performance of the day came from sophomore Aden Meisel, playing at the #3 singles position for the first time. After watching his teammates fall to the #1 singles player from St. Bonaventure 4-6 and 0-6, Meisel turned it around for the Owls with a 6-4 victory in the last match of the day. The Laguna sophomore finished the day undefeated with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 line.

Laguna took two-of-three in doubles, with Ryan Purkait and Nic Richmond collecting a 6-1 win and frosh combo Cody Busch-Weiss and Jake Gidney also defeating the Bonny #1’s with a 6-4 score.

In singles, senior Andreas Jackson took two-of-three and looked to be building back some of his old form after a long layoff from regular competitive play, while junior Ben Rodgers took a nice 6-4 victory over the St. Bonaventure #2.

Laguna Blanca plays next on Friday, April 30th in the second Laguna/Cate rivalry matchup, where Coach Thorpe will hope to turn the tide for the Owls, who lost to his Cate girls’ team earlier in the week. Confused yet? So am I! So am I. What a crazy year this has been over at Thorpe Tennis!

Cate Dominant in First-Ever Match Against Providence

Cate Girls’ Tennis moved to 2-0 on the season with a 14-4 win over Providence High School at the Municipal Courts of Santa Barbara today.

In the first meeting of the two Santa Barbara Area private schools, the match began fairly even in the opening games. However, Fritze Mayer and Emily May steam-rolled ahead with a 6-0 win at #1 doubles and then the flood-gates opened.

Junior Aminah Hill picked up a convincing 6-2 win at the #1 singles spot and fellow junior Ellie Tunnell added a 6-3 victory over her opponent at the #2 spot. Yuki Kobayashi moved to the doubles lineup to pair with Ashi Kamra and the pair recorded another 6-2 set to bring Cate to a 4-0 lead.

Providence fought back with wins at #3 singles and doubles, but would only collect two more wins the rest of the way.

Junior/Freshman combo Julianna Forry and Sophie Alijani recovered from a 4-6 first round to defeat the Providence #1 squad in the second round and also beat the #2’s in the final round of play.

After rolling through their second round opponents Mayer and May were replaced by sophomore/freshman combo Nikita Nautiyal and Caroline Batchelder who made the most of the opportunity with a 6-1 victory. Meanwhile, in singles, Hill and Tunnell swept their matches to go a combined 6-0 on the day.

Cate Girls’ Tennis plays next on Thursday at the Laguna Blanca School, with the match beginning at 3:30pm.

Match Week 1: Cate Earns Clean Sweep, Laguna Off-And-Running

For the first time in 12 seasons of coaching the girls’ tennis program at Cate and boys’ tennis at Laguna Blanca, both teams are in-season at the same time. The move from fall to spring play for girls’ tennis certainly has complicated things, but the juggling act has worked so far!

We have now completed Week 1 of what will be a four-week mad-dash of match-play and it was a strong one for both of my teams.

Thursday, April 15: Cate d. St. Bonaventure 18-0

Cate Girls’ Tennis picked up right where we left off, notching a 43rd consecutive league victory over visiting St. Bonaventure High School. The Servons surrendered just six games en-route to a clean sweep victory.

Cate was led by Aminah Hill, who returns for her third year as a mainstay in the singles lineup, while senior Fritze Mayer and her partner Emily May held down the top spot in doubles. Mayer and her co-captain Yuki Kobayashi are two of three seniors featuring in the Cate lineup this season, along with Madeline Vanica.

The Servons play next on Monday, April 19th at the Santa Barbara Municipal Courts in a rescheduled match against Providence High School, an opponent Cate has not yet faced in high school match-play.

Friday, April 16: Laguna Blanca d. Bishop Diego 11-7

The Owls opened their 2021 season playing short a few players, but came through with a nice 11-7 win against visiting Bishop Diego.

Bishop’s lineup featured one of the top junior players in Santa Barbara County (and an alum of my summer tennis camps!!!) in Luke Williams, who went 3-0 on the day. However, freshman Keanu Nakamura showed flashes of his talent even in his first high school match, playing Williams close in the opening games and pushing his opponent to top-speed.

Laguna did manage to pick up four wins in singles, with #2 singles player Kai Suzuki opening his junior season with a pair of victories. Senior Rodrick Zhu and sophomore Kent Dunn added to the tally with a win each.

The match was won though with dominance from the Owls in doubles player. Co-captains Nic Richmond and Ben Rodgers got the lone win on the day against the Bishop #1’s who normally play #2 and #3 singles for the Cardinals. Outside the top-line, it was all W’s for Laguna Blanca, leading to a total of seven wins on that half of the scorecard.

Laguna plays next at home on Wednesday, April 21st against league-rival Foothill Tech. When these teams last met, it was with a playoff spot on the line during the 2019 season. The Owls took that match 10-8 and went on to reach the CIF Quarterfinals with a strong playoff run!