Cate Girls’ Tennis came tantalizingly close to it’s first CIF Division 1 playoffs win today against visiting Calabasas High School. After two rounds, the match stood at 6-6, but Calabasas rallied to take four sets in the final round and hand the Rams their first loss of the season, 10-8.
Cate got an absolutely dominant performance out of senior team captain Grace Fuss, who defeated her three opponents 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. Two of those wins came against nationally-ranked players, with Lauren Sebastian ranked as high as 452 in the country in 2019 and Ellina Ivanova currently ranked 529 in the country for her class.
Cate came into the match understanding that, with usual #2 singles player Aminah Hill still sidelined by injury, they would have to win the match through the doubles side of the scoresheet. Carol Cai and Mia Foster combined to make a senior pairing at the #3 position and came out red-hot with a 6-2 win. Sophomores Julianna Forry and Maesa Vongkusolkit continued their winning ways, following up a 17-3 Tri-Valley League record with a 6-3 victory over the Calabasas #2 team.
Junior Fritze Mayer and sophomore Ashi Kamra anchored the doubles lineup, following their run to the TVL doubles tournament semifinals. The pair had a 3-2 lead against the Calabasas #1 team, but ended up falling 4-6 in a very competitive match.
Mayer and Kamra rallied to take a 10-8 tie-break win in the second round to keep the team afloat, while Cai and Foster cruised to a 6-1 victory against the #2 team. Forry and Vongkusolkit stayed close with the Calabasas #1’s throughout their second-round match, but the experienced Calabasas team broke serve and held to finish the set with a 6-3 win.
In the third round of play, Cate got quick wins from Fuss and Mayer/Kamra, but could not add to the win-tally, dropping the remaining sets to come just shy of victory.
Coach Thorpe’s Comments:
When you look at the players that had an impact on this match, you’ve obviously got to love what the seniors brought to the table, with Grace rolling her three opponents and Carol and Mia taking two solid wins in their first match together this season.
That said, there’s also a lot to be feeling good about with regards to the players we’ll have back next season. We’ve got three sophomores who formed a crucial part of the doubles lineup, where last season one was playing #3 doubles, another was playing JV, and the third wasn’t even playing high school tennis. That’s a big transformation for Ashi, Julianna, and Maesa. Fritze, who’s already been an important part of the team for a few years now also clearly took a step forward this season and is set up to have a stellar senior campaign in 2020.
Even our #2 and #3 singles players, who got shut out today, have exhibited huge growth from the beginning of the season to now. Yuki Kobayashi is getting closer to cracking the tournament-level as a singles player and freshman Ellie Tunnell totally outperformed expectation this season. They had a hard job today but they gave everything and took some games off of some very experienced ranked players.
To sum it up, the score says we lost today, but to me this match was still an expression of the growth of this team from beginning of season to end. None of these girls are the same players they were two and a half months ago. Meanwhile, the constant across a number of seasons now at Cate is that even when we face schools with many multiples our student population, we rise to the occasion and make it a battle. We can take pride in our performance today and that’s what matters the most.
What’s Next for Cate Tennis?
While team tennis is finished for 2019, senior captains Grace Fuss and Carol Cai will play in the CIF Regional Individuals event held at Cate School and Carpinteria High on Monday, November 25th. They hope to improve upon their 3rd-round performance in 2018 and return to CIF Sectionals, where Carol made the Round-of-16 as a sophomore with her sister Jackie in 2017.