Posted on November 6, 2023
Cate girls’ tennis (15-0 overall) has defeated defending CIF D4 Champion Mark Keppel High School (15-7 overall) by a 12-6 final score. Cate had highly anticipated the matchup, with Keppel opening the season as the top-seeded team in Division 3 and led by two college tennis-bound singles players. Ultimately, the Rams overcame the singles onslaught with depth throughout the lineup, including a clean sweep of the doubles sets.
With Mark Keppel’s strength in the lineup tilted to the top end, Cate reshuffled the deck, pairing #2 singles player Lisa Hasebe ’27 with Frances Davis ’24 and #3 singles player Reyna Takahashi ’27 with her recent league individual tournament partner Colette Chang ’25. The #3 doubles pairing from Friday’s
match against Fullerton (Claire Bianchi ’26 and Pyper Davis ’26) slotted into the open singles positions.
Hasebe and Davis cruised to a quick 6-0 win at the #2 spot, while the younger Davis sister took care of business with a 6-0 set-win at #3 singles. Two more wins in doubles followed, with Chang/Takahashi taking the match-up of #1 teams 6-2, and Sophie Alijani ’24 and Elsie Chamberlain ’26 rallying from 1-2 down to win five consecutive games.
Though Cate was unable to get wins at #1 singles from Bianchi against Dana Kunza or #2 singles from Alyna Takahashi ’24 against Noor Abani, the team accomplished its objective of taking a 4-2 lead in the first round with the strategic lineup.
In the second round, Bianchi grabbed a quick 6-1 set from Keppel #3, while doubles again swept convincingly. Takahashi rattled the UTR 7 senior from Keppel, firing stinging blows to the corners off both the forehand and backhand side and serving with considerable might. The match remained locked in a back-and-forth battle to the midpoint, engaging the crowd that gathered to watch the two top players, but eventually, the higher-ranked player prevailed, 6-3. Still, the Cate senior captain showed she is amongst the best singles players in Division 3.
After two rounds, it was clear that the Cate lineup strategy was working, with Cate looking likely to sweep all three doubles positions and pick up easy victories at #3 singles. Chang and Takahashi took the overall score to 9-4 with a speedy 6-1 win in the final round, followed within two minutes by the match-clinching win from Hasebe and Davis, 6-0 against the Keppel #2 team. Keppel’s top duo continued to dominate, making the score 10-6, though partially offset by Alyna Takahashi’s 6-0 third-round win to make 11-6.
The final match on-court was Mark Keppel’s top doubles team facing Cate’s #3’s. Alijani and Chamberlain got off to a flying start, winning 5 of the first six games on aggressive net play, but the match momentum swung back in the other direction as Keppel settled in and took advantage of a few Cate errors. At 5-4, Alijani/Chamberlain regained their focus and closed the door, completing the 9-0 doubles sweep on the day for Cate tennis.
I’m so proud of my girls for their performance today. They played their hearts out, stuck to our game plan, and had complete faith in each other and what we tried to do to win the match.
We have had this Keppel team in our sights the entire season since they were the defending CIF Champions and had such a decisive 1-2 combo in the singles lineup. We have a lot of strength at the top of our lineup, too, but our standard singles lineup wouldn’t get it done in this particular situation.
I got together with our assistant coach, Mark Polowczak, and our captains, Alyna and Sophie, and we worked out the best lineup to handle this particular matchup. Consequently, Reyna and Colette spent a week playing doubles together for TVL Individuals, where they earned first-team all-league honors. Lisa and Frances had also played together in one match earlier in the season, so we knew that was a combo we could go back to if needed.
We also know that Claire and Pyper are probably even better singles players than in doubles, with a combined record of 21-4 in singles play during the regular season. Moving them into the singles lineup wasn’t anything new, and they were both excited to take on that responsibility.
The bottom line is Cate girls’ tennis is 100% committed to the team result; however, we can best achieve it. We know that every single playoff school in our CIF Division is bigger than ours, but it’s unlikely we’ll face a team that’s more close-knit or dedicated to each other. This is how mountains get moved!
Cate travels to Cerritos High School on Wednesday (11/8) for a CIF Semifinal match scheduled to begin at 2pm. Cerritos (17-3 overall) entered the playoffs as the #3-seeded team, with Cate (15-0 overall) slightly favored as the #2 seed. The winner will play for the CIF D3 Championship against either Oaks Christian or Culver City on Friday, November 10th, at The Claremont Club.