Laguna Blanca Tennis Now 10-3, Ranked #7 in CIF

With just three matches left, Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis continues to roll towards a CIF Playoff appearance. The team will need to win its final three matches to clinch a playoff spot. Here’s a quick recap of the last two weeks of play:

Laguna Blanca @ Foothill Tech (9-9, 72-68)

In what has been the closest match of the season, the Owls narrowly defeated a strong Foothill Tech team. The teams were evenly matched in the singles positions, with Alex Furukawa taking two wins and Victor Liu and Kai Nakamura pitched in wins over Foothill #3 player Ethan Wang.

Doubles was a lopsided affair, with the Foothill #1’s easily taking their three sets, while Laguna gave just a handful of games up against in the other six sets. In the end, the margin of victory on the doubles side of the match set Laguna up to win by four games.

Laguna Blanca v. Cate School (3-15)

The Cate School remains undefeated on the season, having already beaten Dos Pueblos, San Marcos, and Santa Barbara High Schools on the strength of the Ha brothers (Kevin, Ethan) in singles and a stellar #1 doubles pairing. This is the big year for Cate, as three of these four players will graduate or be ineligible for the 2018 season.

Although the score appears lopsided, the Owls took great satisfaction from the match, coming away with some high-quality experience and the knowledge that four of the lost sets were very evenly contested (6-7, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7). In particular, Laguna’s #1 doubles duo Conor Scheinberg and Jason Barnick impressed with their gutsy performances on the day, winning two sets and losing to Cate’s #1’s in a tie-break set.

Laguna Blanca v. Carpinteria (12-6)

In the first match of the season against Carpinteria, Laguna barely squeaked by with a 10-8 victory after struggling in doubles play. This time, with partnerships more settled, Laguna was able to take and hold a steady lead throughout the match.

Alex Furukawa was dominant at #1 singles, dropping just a couple games. Victor Liu also beat the Carpinteria #2 by a much greater margin than he had in the first match. Kai Nakamura nearly ended the match with a win over Jeremy Saito (Carp’s #1) after battling for nearly an hour to a 7-9 tie-break loss.

Laguna Blanca @ Thacher (4-14)

In what was a somewhat forgettable performance, Laguna failed to pull in a single set in doubles play. Singles play was more evenly matched, with Furukawa taking two wins and Liu and Nakamura each winning once and playing close sets against the Thacher #2. Thacher held a 7-1 record going into the match while playing a division above Laguna and their strength in depth was just too much for the Owls.

Laguna Blanca @ Lompoc (16-2)

The owls dominated every position in the lineup except at #2 doubles. Though the windy conditions played to the advantage of the home-team, the Owls brought too much experience to the match to be challenged. This win also marks the 10th victory of the season, making it five consecutive season the Owls have achieved double-digit wins. For more about past performances, check out the Laguna Blanca Team History page.

Looking Ahead

Laguna Varsity Boys’ Tennis faces three more opponents in the regular season, including two that have already been beaten by the Owls earlier in the year. Assuming a sweep of these matches, Laguna would finish the season 13-3, clinching a wildcard playoff berth with a more than 80% win-percentage. In addition, Laguna Blanca remains a top-10 ranked team in CIF D4, coming in at #7 in the most recent poll.

CIF April 24 Rankings

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Laguna Dominates Pacifica in 14-4 Rout

IMG_9128The last three matches between these teams have been decided by two sets or less, but this year the Owls were overwhelming in a comprehensive victory over the Tritons.

There’s a lot of youth and inexperience on the Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis team compared to recent years, but at 7-1 overall this season, the Owls are getting the job done and getting better rapidly. The timing couldn’t be better, with this week’s schedule featuring three solid opponents and Thacher plus Foothill Tech coming up next.

Laguna got three promising set wins from juniors Jason Barnick and Conor Scheinberg, who played the best doubles of the season, winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 over some quality opponents. Rhami Zeini also stood out today with his aggressive net play across three solid sets of play.

In singles today, Alex Furukawa swept 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and Victor Liu was absolutely dominant in two sets, beating Pacifica’s top two players 6-1, 6-0. Kovid Mishra also got in on the singles fun, taking Liu’s place in the third round and picking up a 6-4 victory. Kai Nakamura quietly continued his progression as a stand-out high school singles player with three set wins, bringing his record to 17-4 in singles on the season (18-4 overall).

In related news, there is a new theory and now even photographic evidence about who started “The Dab.” As it turns out, it was our very own freshman phenom, Kai Nakamura, who uses the popular dance move as part of his heavy top-spin forehand!

Kai Nakamura Laguna Blanca Tennis

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Laguna Moves to 6-1 with Wins over Nordhoff, Carpinteria, and Orcutt Academy

Laguna Blanca Boys Tennis 2017-3

The Owls have been proving that this season is more than just a rebuilding operation. Despite having not a single starting senior in the lineup, Laguna has steadily worked its way into relevance by defeating six-of-seven teams faced so far in the 2017 season. Here are the match recaps for the last three wins:

Laguna v. Orcutt Academy (12-6)

Laguna faced a lineup-stack from Orcutt, which translated to a sweep from Coast Union at #1 doubles. They also picked up some wins at the #2 doubles spot, but failed to draw blood in nine sets of singles play. Alex Furukawa, Kai Nakamura, and Conor Scheinberg lost just 5 of 59 games played in singles action.

Laguna benefitted greatly from two wins from Jason Barnick and Victor Liu, who recovered well after stumbling early against the Orcutt’s #1’s. Kovid Mishra’s killer backhand (pictured above) and Kevin Khodabandehlou’s steady play provided an additional set win (6-0 against Orcutt’s #3 doubles team).

Laguna @ Carpinteria (10-8)

The Owls had a very tight match with the Warriors from Carpinteria, with the edge going to Laguna through superior singles play. Alex Furukawa swept (6-1, 6-0, 6-0) and Victor Liu and Kai Nakamura each added two set wins. Victor Liu played his best match as an Owl, fighting deep into his second-round match against Carp’s second best player to pull out a 7-5 victory.

Doubles struggled against Carpinteria’s top two teams, unable to take a single set, but got by the Carp #3’s with relative ease to provide the three sets needed to clinch the match without counting up games.

Laguna v. Nordhoff (13-5)

Singles play was led again by junior Alex Furukawa, who won his sets 6-2, 6-0, 6-0. Freshman Kai Nakamura added a 6-2, 7-5, 6-0 sweep of his own. Alex and Kai were super-solid all day long. Nordhoff’s top two players were both very consistent, but our guys broke them down with a combination of steadiness and willingness to go on the attack at the right moments.

The Rangers’ top doubles pairing Mikel Elizalde and Elias Simon eked out a tight 7-5 tie-break win in the first round against Laguna’s Victor Liu and Jason Barnick en-route to a sweep on the day. Laguna won all the remaining doubles sets, with two wins from Liu/Barnick and another four wins spread across four doubles combinations including players: John-Henry Schulz, Kelvin Chen, Rhami Zeini, Kovid Mishra, Peter Smith, and Jack Stein.

Laguna, now 6-1, will face Oxnard/Pacifica High School at home on Thursday. The Owls dropped an 8-10 decision against Pacifica last year while playing short several players, but will look to flip the script with a full lineup this time around. Laguna will also face the Thacher school next Tuesday before the beginning of Spring Break.

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Laguna Takes Two Victories in Two Days

Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis has moved to 3-1 this season with wins over St. Bonaventure at Ventura College on Monday and Coast Union today at Furukawa Tennis Garden in Hope Ranch.

Laguna Blanca @ St. Bonaventure (16-2)

Juniors Alex Furukawa and Jason Barnick made their season debuts in the singles lineup, alongside freshman Kai Nakamura, winning seven-of-nine sets. All three singles players won their sets against St. Bonaventure’s #2 and #3 singles players and Furukawa completed a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 sweep on the day.

In doubles play, Laguna recorded a flawless sweep from junior Conor Scheinberg and freshman Rhami Zeini (6-0, 6-0, 6-0) and junior Victor Liu and his partner freshman John-Henry Schulz also swept their matches in convincing fashion. Finally, junior Kelvin Chen paired twice with sophomore Kovid Mishra and in the third round with sophomore Jack Stein to also notch three wins on the day.

In the final round of play, Chen/Stein found themselves down 2-5 before winning every remaining game in the set to take a 7-5 victory.

Laguna Blanca v. Coast Union (15-3)

Today, Laguna again adjusted the lineup, with Victor Liu and Conor Scheinberg re-joining the singles lineup. The pair each swept their sets and Alex Furukawa won two sets at the #1 position before being substituted in the final round.

Doubles featured many lineup combinations and substitutions, but freshman duo John-Henry Schulz and Rhami Zeini stood out, with a quick win against Coast Union’s #2’s and then a closely fought 6-4 victory against the #1’s. Jason Barnick and Kai Nakamura also recorded a win over the Coast Union #1 team before being substituted out for the final two rounds.

Freshman Kevin Khodabandehlou made his season debut with Jack Stein, picking up a 6-2 win in doubles play. Another match that featured Laguna substitutes, junior Eric Qin and freshman Peter Smith pulled out a tie-break win (7-5) to end the match.

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis returns to play against Orcutt Academy this Friday at 3:30pm (home).

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Laguna Splits First Two Matches of Season

Laguna Blanca boys’ tennis opened the 2017 season this week with a 12-6 win over Dunn at home and a 6-12 loss to Santa Ynez away.

Laguna Blanca v. Dunn (12-6)

Singles players Victor Liu (junior) and Kai Nakamura (freshman) picked up two wins apiece, defeating Dunn’s #2 and #3 singles players in convincing fashion. Junior Conor Scheinberg added a set in singles and also played a solid 2-6 set against undefeating Dunn #1 singles player Julian Deck.

In doubles, Laguna was led by junior Jason Barnick and freshman John-Henry Schulz, who swept their sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 at the #1 doubles position. Doubles pairing Peter Smith/Wesley Schulz added two set wins and Kovid Mishra/Jack Stein and Zane Mazor-Brown/Tony Xu chipped one set each at the #2 doubles position.

Laguna Blanca @ Santa Ynez (6-12)

In what was a challenging early-season match, Laguna was unable to match the depth of a balanced Santa Ynez team.

Kai Nakamura’s performance at #3 singles proved to be a significant bright spot, with the Laguna freshman notching two wins in three sets of play with very effective strategy execution. Victor Liu played a very close first-round set against the Santa Ynez #1 player Braxton Johnson, eventually succumbing 4-6, but also showing off improvements made during the off-season. Liu also managed to snag a set in the second round of play, beating Santa Ynez’s Robert Meyer 7-5.

Alex Furukawa made his season debut, coming over from soccer, winning two of three sets with partner John-Henry Schulz. Kelvin Chen also played in his first match of the season, partnering with Jason Barnick to win a set in the final round of play.

Laguna will play three times in the coming week:

Monday – @ St. Bonaventure (at Ventura College)
Tuesday – v. Coast Union
Friday – v. Orcutt Academy

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Thorpe Tennis: 2016 Year-in-Review

img_8303As I look back on the last three “year-in-review” posts, I am reminded of just how long I’ve been writing what my students affectionately refer to as “the blog.” This is not a new site, and Thorpe Tennis, now seven years old, is not a new thing either. However, I am inspired daily to bring new and better content, methods, and insights to my work.

I feel this way because I have a passion for teaching the game of tennis and particularly for having an impact on young lives. There are few things in this world I enjoy more than seeing the light go on about getting that service contact point up a little higher or cutting off the angles at net; the moment where a player realizes they can compete against that crazy-good opponent; building mastery day-by-day out of desire. These are the little things that make the big difference and not just on the tennis court. These are experiential building blocks for life and I feel very fortunate to be part of that process of growth.

In 2016, there have been challenges, but as a tennis community, Thorpe Tennis has been extremely successful. Here are just some of the many high-points of the year:

  • Spent more than 1,000 hours on-court, coaching 61 players from age 9 to 60.
  • Directed a third, and perhaps, the most successful year of my tennis camp for middle schoolers and incoming freshmen.Laguna Blanca Tennis Camp 2016
  • Coached Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis to a 12-4 record, which saw us ranked as high as #9 in CIF D4.
  • Led Cate Girls’ Tennis to a 10-1 regular season record, during which time we were ranked as high as #1 in CIF D2 before finishing #4. We also made a return to the Quarterfinals of CIF D2, after recording a 69-68 victory over a senior-laden Xavier Prep. With regards to ranking and division performance, these are achievements accomplished by no other team in Cate Athletics history.img_8188
  • Individually, my students at Cate had a big year as well:
    • Grace Fuss finished Runner-Up in Tri-Valley League Singles and won a round of CIF Individuals, before finishing the year ranked #525 in the country for her class.
    • Jackie Cai & Carol Cai won the Tri-Valley League Doubles Title and their first two matches in CIF Individuals. Jackie now sits at #860 in the country, while Carol is ranked #1098; Both are primed for a significant jump in the next year!
    • Summer Christensen & Sarah Polowczak completed a remarkable 26-0 regular season and went on to finish Runner-Up in league (l. to sisters Cai), before also making the third round of CIF Individuals.img_8126
  • Thorpe Tennis can boast a growing number of players active at the collegiate level, with Phillip Hicks and McKenna Madden making the club teams at Yale and Boston College (respectively). McKenna tried out along with 60 other young women for 6 roster spots and made the cut as a freshman!img_8091
  • Julia Gan began her season as a starter for Haverford College, but will transfer to NYU, where she had been heavily recruited last year, for the spring season.
  • Posted 40 blog entries, including many player photos, that were viewed by more than 1,400 visitors to this site.
  • Brought together Thorpe Tennis students for an awesome group lesson during the holidays that spanned six of the seven years I’ve been coaching in Santa Barbara (pictured at top).

Happy New Year to everyone out there reading “the blog” and I look forward to working together towards an even better 2017!

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Cate Falls 7-11 in Quarterfinal Round

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.

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