Owls Head to Spring Break 5-1, #4 Seed

Laguna Blanca faced a tough schedule with two consecutive long-drive, away matches followed by a Division 2 opponent, but came through the stretch with three important victories. Continue reading

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Fit and Firing Owls off to 2-0 Start with Convincing Early-Season Wins


Hard work (including the team tradition “rain run” pictured above) has put the Owls in prime position to take another step forward this season. Laguna Blanca has begun the 2018 campaign with a pair of victories, with another four matches to be played in the next 9 days. Here are the recaps: Continue reading

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Thorpe Tennis: 2017 Year-in-Review

Laguna Sunday GroupLike most of us here in the Santa Barbara Area, 2017 ended on a frustrating note for me. Eleven months of momentum quite literally went up in smoke, as the Thomas Fire ravaged our mountains, threatened our community, and for three weeks made tennis all but impossible.

What it didn’t do is dampen my enthusiasm for the way my students have performed in 2017. Whether the goal was learning to put the ball on the strings consistently or to reach new heights in elite competition, Thorpe Tennis was blessed with big results this last year.

These achievements, which you will read more about below, had a particularly profound effect on the way I was able to process the end of my marriage. Those in this community who were aware of it offered me their heartfelt support and the time I got to spend with each of my students on-court was absolute joy in a time of sadness. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who is a part of Thorpe Tennis for being my guiding light in 2017.

Like a parent recently mentioned to me, referring to the mudslide troubles of this first month of 2018, “this too shall pass.” So onward to the highlights of 2017 and the opportunities that 2018 will surely provide:


  • Spent more than 1,000 hours on-court, coaching 59 players from age 6 to 54.
  • Directed a fourth edition of Laguna Blanca Summer Tennis Camp for middle schoolers and incoming freshmen that featured what I consider to be the best T-shirt design yet!All-Camp Photo
  • Significantly grew tennis participation at the lower/middle school level at Laguna Blanca, particularly through weekly group lessons.
  • Coached Laguna Blanca Boys’ High School Tennis to a 13-3 record and our deepest CIF Playoffs run to-date (Quarterfinals of D4).FullSizeRender 5
  • Led Cate Girls’ Tennis to a 13-1 regular season record and a third-consecutive Tri-Valley League Title. This also coincided with our promotion to the top division in Southern California. Being a D1 CIF tennis team means that we are considered one of the top 30 teams in what is widely considered the deepest high school section in the entire country. We are, by far, the smallest school to appear in CIF Division 1 and the first team of any sport to reach the top division at Cate.IMG_1131
  • Individually, my students at Cate had another phenomenal run:
    • Grace Fuss finished Runner-Up in Tri-Valley League Singles for a second consecutive season while earning team MVP honors.
    • Sarah Polowczak and Janice Ng had awesome seasons with other partners before pairing to finish Runner-Up in league (l. to sisters Cai). The pair continued their success with a first-round win in CIF Individuals.
    • Jackie Cai & Carol Cai repeated their Tri-Valley League Doubles Title and won four rounds in CIF Individuals, earning them the billing as one of the top 16 doubles teams in CIF Southern Section!

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Now it’s time to get back to work, Thorpe Tennis players, parents, and friends! We’ve got quite the year to top, but somehow we manage to do it again and again.

Sincerest thanks for another great year of tennis in Santa Barbara!

Trevor Thorpe

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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

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Cate Girls Take Three-of-Four Spots from TVL for CIF Individuals

IMG_1750 2Cate’s Grace Fuss advanced to the singles league finals for the second time in two seasons on Thursday at Pepperdine University. Fuss finished the regular season a perfect 23-0 in TVL singles play and 33-2 across all matches. Continue reading

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