Cate Girls’ Tennis Opens Season 3-0

IMG_6606Cate Varsity Tennis had to be off-and-running very quickly this year, with the first match of the season coming with just four days of practice. Despite the early start, the girls came through with a victory against Rio Mesa High School and then followed that up with a win over Santa Barbara High School before outings week.

Returning from outings week can always be tricky and the 10-day break was apparent in the first days of practice. Still, when match-time came last Friday against Carpinteria High School, the Cate program was ready to take care of business.

Match Recaps

Cate @ Rio Mesa, 11-7 Win

The singles lineup was led by junior Grace Fuss, who battled fiercely with the higher-ranked Jupneet Singh of Rio Mesa, before going on to win her other two sets on the day.

Freshman Aminah Hill also impressed in her team debut, winning two sets as well. Senior Sydney Burton added a win in two sets-of-play before being substituted in the final round.

In doubles, Cate could count on the experience of two-time Tri-Valley League Doubles Runner-Up Sarah Polowczak, who paired with standout sophomore Fritze Mayer for two convincing victories. The pair were substituted in the third round-of-play, yielding the court to Mia Foster and Tali Nam, who picked up a nice 7-5 victory.

Seniors Kate Tunnell and Jennifer Soh also came out strong in their season debut, winning their first two sets, before dropping a closely contested set with the Rio Mesa #1 team in the third round.

Cate v. Santa Barbara, 10-8 Win

For the second year in-a-row Cate girls tennis has overcome Santa Barbara High, a school with 10x its enrollment, to validate their position as one of the top teams in Santa Barbara County.

Cate was led by junior Grace Fuss, who looked untroubled in three quick victories on the day. Senior Sydney Burton added two wins and freshman Aminah Hill added another, giving Cate a 6-3 advantage in singles play.

In doubles, the match was more even, with senior/sophomore combo Sarah Polowczak and Fritze Mayer moving to 5-0 on the season with a sweep of their three rounds. Wins were harder to come by at the #2 and #3 positions, with seniors Jennifer Soh and Kate Tunnell earning a single, but decisive win in the final round.

Coach’s Comments: “I’m very pleased with the match today. It was competitive, particularly in doubles, and we came out with another win against a large public school. Given that we’re only a week-and-a-half into practicing together, to be 2-0 going into Outings Week is awesome.

Santa Barbara may not be the powerhouse they once were, but they’ve got what is clearly a nice group of girls who are eager to maximize their potential as tennis players. That’s exactly what we do here at Cate so it’s always a pleasure to play like-minded programs.”

Cate v. Carpinteria, 14-4 Win

In a comprehensive decision in the Carpinteria cross-town rivalry, wins were spread evenly between singles and doubles, with Cate earning 7-of-9 sets in each half of the scoresheet.

The home team earned sweeps at the #1 and #2 singles positions from juniors Grace Fuss and Carol Cai. Cai is active in match-play for the first time this season after an off-season shoulder surgery, but is already showing signs of the form that saw her finish amongst the top-16 doubles teams in CIF-Southern Section last year.

Senior Kate Tunnell, normally a staple of the Cate doubles lineup added a win, defeating the Carpinteria #2 singles player 6-2 in the second round-of-play.

In doubles, Sarah Polowczak and Fritze Mayer remain undefeated on the season, winning their sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. Pairings Jennifer Soh/Madeline Vanica and Yuki Kobayashi/Mia Foster both added two sets to the Cate tally.

Cate is now 3-0, while Carpinteria moves to 7-4.

What’s Up Next?

Cate begins Tri-Valley League play at the Thacher School next Thursday at 3:15pm. Expect more of these match recap posts as well as other tennis content in the near future!

Cai Sisters Give #2 Seeds a Scare, but Fall in CIF Round-of-16

52F047DF-0D5E-4126-B75C-0B75D439B55A.jpegJackie and Carol Cai were unable to continue their fairy-tale run in CIF Individuals play today. Despite coming up short, it was all smiles for the sisters, as they pushed their more experienced opponents and proved beyond doubt that they are one of the best doubles teams in the strongest high school section in the country.

The Cate duo faced tournament #2-seed Emily Ackerman (senior) and Chloe Bendetti (junior) from Oaks Christian. Bendetti was no stranger to the big show, having reached the finals of last year’s tournament, and Ackerman will play for Cal Poly SLO next year, an NCAA D1 program. Both players are ranked in the top 150 players in the country for their classes.

Experience was on display, as the Oaks Christian team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set. Serves to the corners and crisp volleys punctuated nearly every point and to the casual viewer, the match may have appeared like a formality.

Unfazed, Cai and Cai battled back by winning the next four games and had some opportunities to draw even in the tenth game before a missed poach ended the set.

The surprise was palpable on the faces of the Oaks Christian coaches and fans sitting courtside and frustrations became visible on-court as well. “These Cate girls are here to play” was the obvious signal.

After dropping the first set 4-6, the sisters jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second, with a quick break of Ackerman’s serve and a textbook hold of Carol’s serve. Bendetti held a tough service game with a clutch corner ace to stem the bleeding and again the momentum shifted.

The Oaks Christian pairing hit a hot streak and rattled off four straight games to regain control of the match, as the Cai’s had a dip in energy. The final few games were fairly evenly contested, but the second set went to Oaks Christian 6-3.

While this was the last stand for Jackie Cai, a senior, Carol will have two more opportunities to improve upon this year’s performance. As has been the case in recent years, every season at Cate has brought a new level of success, and with returning players like Carol and the knowledge passed down by outgoing players like Jackie, the team looks primed for another great season in 2018!

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Cai Sisters Advance to Sweet 16 with Dominant Performance

EC538F08-E5CB-4930-B060-E05ED8F8FC7AThe Cate Doubles pairing of sisters Jackie and Carol Cai continues to push forward into uncharted territory in CIF Individuals.

After qualifying as one of four teams from our region last week, the Sisters Cai were one of eight teams competing today for four spots in the CIF Individuals Finals Tournament Round-of-16.

Cate’s opponent was a doubles team from Long Beach Poly who had two full seasons of experience playing together, but Jackie and Carol came out swinging. Carol Cai hit a number of down-the-line winners off returns in the early games and Jackie Cai served as though possessed. Despite strong resistance from the experienced Poly team, the first set went 6-1 to Cate.

The second set of play was characterized by holds of serve; twelve of them, to be exact. Though the Cai’s were always up, and had a few opportunities early in the set to break, the Poly team picked it up in the second half of the set and forced a tie-breaker.

Cate came out nervous in the breaker, dropping five of the first six points. Undaunted, the Cate duo regrouped and put on a show of doubles dominance, winning seven of the next eight points to capture the match in straight sets.

Jackie and Carol Cai will play again tomorrow morning at 10:30am at Seal Beach Tennis Center and, with a win, would play again later in the day in the quarterfinal round.

This is the first time in 9 seasons as a coach at Cate that any team or singles player has advanced this far in CIF Individuals play. It’s a rarity, particularly coming from a school with such a strong academic focus, but a sweet opportunity.

Jackie, a senior, seems determined not to let the season end and as luck would have it, she’s got the perfect partner in her sister Carol to keep the dream alive!

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Cate Battles Mightily in 6-12 Playoff Loss

IMG_4428Cate’s first foray into the girls’ tennis division one playoffs ended with a 6-12 loss today at home against Mira Costa.

In the first round, Cate got big wins from Sarah Polowczak and Fritze Mayer at #3 doubles and Jackie and Carol Cai at #1 doubles in a brilliantly played tie-breaker.

Jackie Cai held serve at 5-6 down with two consecutive aces to open the game and then her younger sister Carol poached the return on the next point. The older Cai then fired another unreturnable serve to force the tie-breaker. The Cai sisters, recently crowned two-time TVL League Doubles Champions took an early lead in the breaker and held it to a 7-4 conclusion in what was the most excited set on the day.

Grace Fuss and Sydney Burton both pushed their opponents to the 4-6 sets in singles action, despite being outmatched on paper.

After dropping the first round 2-4, Cate looked to be on the rebound with a quick 6-0 win from Grace Fuss and Sydney Burton taking a 5-0 lead on the Mira Costa #2. Meanwhile, Jackie and Carol Cai delivered a 6-0 victory against the #3 doubles team.

The match took another momentum swing, though, as Cate’s #2 team of Janice Ng and Jennifer Soh dropped a 1-6 set against the Mira Costa #1’s and Polowczak/Mayer could not hold an early lead against the #2’s, falling 3-6. A heady change of strategy yielded a seven-game swing for Mira Costa at the #2 singles position, where Burton had previously looked to have the set locked up.

Down 4-8 after two rounds, Cate remained resolute to fight to the last set, with the Cai sisters completing their sweep on the day with a 6-4 set. Meanwhile, Polowczak and Mayer played their best tennis of the day to record a 4-6 loss against Mira Costa’s formidable #1’s and Ng/Soh held a 5-4 lead against the #3’s before losing the final three games.

Kate Tunnell couldn’t get past the Mira Costa #3, though she played her best tennis of the season throughout the day. Grace Fuss added the final win of the day just moments after substitute Yuki Kobayashi dropped her set against the #1 from Mira Costa, making the final score 6-12.

In total, five-of-seven sets decided by two games or less went the way of Mira Costa, meaning that Cate was very much in the battle and might have come out the victor had just a few games in those key sets gone the other way.

This was the first season for Cate in CIF’s top division, which is composed of the best 30 teams in Southern California. Today, Cate faced a school with 10 times its enrollment and made a very strong stand.

Three seasons prior, Cate girls’ tennis was promoted from D4 to D2 and lost in the first round before going on to reach the quarterfinals in the next two seasons. Perhaps this is just the start?

If I can say anything about my team, it’s that they have always risen to meet the next challenge. We faced a very strong team with an exponentially larger student body and from a powerhouse league. Still, from the first point to the last, we belonged. My girls have heart and they love to compete with class. As a coach and mentor, I couldn’t be more proud.

Cate will be represented in CIF Individuals by Grace Fuss in singles and in doubles by Janice Ng/Sarah Polowczak as well as Carol Cai/Jackie Cai. The Cai sisters look primed to break out of the regional event, where last year they won two rounds before dropping the final round-of-play. No Cate girls’ tennis player/team has broken through to the CIF Individuals Final Rounds in the last ten plus years.IMG_4436