Cate Girls’ Tennis Advance to first CIF Finals since 1999 with Come-from-behind Win

November 9, 2023

The perfect season continues for Cate girls’ tennis, thanks to some late-game heroics in the face of defeat. With a 6-8 deficit to Cerritos High School in the final round-of-play, Cate rallied to sweep the last 4 sets on-court for the 10-8 win. Cate, now 16-0 overall on the season, overcame a Cerritos 1-2 combination that featured two players who have been nationally ranked in the top-100 for their classes on multiple occasions.

How it Happened:

The match remained tight through the first two rounds, with Cerritos dominating at #1 and #2 singles as well as #1 doubles, while Cate was equally impressive at the #2 and #3 doubles positions. Cate kept hope alive also thanks to wins from Alyna Takahashi ’24 and Pyper Davis ’26 (6-2, 6-3 respectively) over the Cerritos #3. The match was locked at 6-6 after two rounds, setting up a nail-biter finale between the #2 and #3 seeds in CIF Division 3. In the third round, Cerritos struck first, earning a pair of 6-0 wins from their singles standouts. The winning margins stacked the 9-9 tie game-count scenario in Cerritos’ favor, meaning the only way for Cate to win would be a clean sweep of the remaining sets. Cate doubles set about the task, resolute and upbeat. Sophie Alijani ’24 and Elsie Chamberlain ’26 struck first with a convincing 6-1 win. Colette Chang ’25 and Reyna Takahashi ’27 followed quickly with a 6-2 set over the Cerritos #3’s.

Frances Davis ’24 and Lisa Hasebe ’27 came out of the gates hot, battling aggressively against the Cerritos #1’s, who had only dropped two games total in the previous two rounds. It was a different story against Davis and Hasebe, who controlled the set from the net, pummeling overheads and mixing in touch volleys. With their opponents playing “two-back,” a familiar pattern repeated over and over. Davis worked the net while Hasebe patrolled the baseline, pulling her opponents off the court with her powerful lefty forehands and setting up the Davis smash. Both Cate girls also served aggressively, creating lots of pop-ups and free points off the serve. At 3-2, Davis managed the pressure of a break point, coming back to take the game and create separation between the two teams. Cate then broke serve and followed up with a hold to clinch the 7th doubles set-win for Cate on the day, as well as the 9-8 lead overall.

Over on the remaining singles court, sophomore Claire Bianchi was in a battle of attrition with the Cerritos #3 player. Bianchi had started slowly, going down 1-3 and facing a 40-0 deficit in the fifth game, but her will did not falter. Bianchi settled in for the long haul, accepting that she’d need to make 15-20 shots per point to force the error from her opponent. Five points later, Bianchi had turned that game around and put the match back on serve. The Cate sophomore extended the streak to 7 consecutive points, completely changing the match’s momentum. By 4-3, her doubles teammates had all gathered to cheer her on, adding to the intensity of the deciding match and further tilting the advantage to Cate. Bianchi emerged victorious by a 6-3 final score, lifting Cate to the 10-8 win by sheer force of will.

Coach Thorpe’s Comments:

This is such an incredibly hard-fought result. Cerritos was a very strong team. They’ve got two college-level singles players, an absolute wall #3 singles player, a very solid #1, and competent doubles farther down the line. That’s usually a winning combination, but 16 times this season, we’ve had the answer to whatever our opponents throw at us. I can’t overstate how hard Alyna, Pyper, and Claire worked in singles to give us the chance to squeak through with our doubles strength. They were so composed and ready for those long points.

Equally, our doubles girls had to be focused throughout the match. There was no room for error, with our team starting down 0-6 in singles. Lisa and Frances have only played together 3 times this season, but it’s clear they’re a dynamic pairing. We knew going in we’d have to get at least one win over the Cerritos #1 doubles team, and when Reyna and Colette went down 0-6 in the first round, it was clear that was going to be a big ask.

Lisa and Frances came through with the best doubles performance of the season to accomplish that for us today. They executed what we call “Cate Doubles” with a complete absence of fear, despite the high stakes. The bottom line is that every Cate player put it all on the line today, from the first point to the last, to get that collective victory and a shot at our first CIF Championship. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and the result is a bonus.

What’s Next for Cate Girls’ Tennis?

Cate will play in the CIF Finals for the fourth time in program history (runner-up 1996, 1998, 1999) and first in Division 3. The match will be held at The Claremont Club in Claremont, California at 11am on Friday, November 10th.