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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Wells

Boys Tennis: A Year In Review (Graham Clinger)

The Cate Boys’ Tennis team began this current season with varying levels of expectation. Just one season prior the team had completed one of the greatest years in recent memory, going undefeated and winning the 2023 CIF Championship. The team had to say goodbye to a few great players such as singles player Jengus Urcil ‘23 and doubles star Will Vanica ‘23 who both graduated while Nate Keshen ‘24, a staple of the doubles lineup, suffered a leg injury that prevented him from playing this season. Lost talent was not the only challenge facing Cate coming into this year’s season: the team's successes last year resulted in a new placement within CIF Southern Section Division 1, a massive jump from their former home in Division 3. Yet, the remaining team alongside the addition of some capable freshmen led the group to look forward with some tempered optimism.

The year began with some non-league tests, the first of which being Newbury Park, a team Cate had not faced in recent history. Newbury was followed by Dos Pueblos, a historically strong athletic institution boasting an impressive track record. Both matches were tough fights and resulted in disappointing losses. Despite the hit to morale, the team remained confident that they would only get better with time. Their maintained confidence was rewarded with commanding victories over league opponents St. Bonnies and Bishop Diego. During this time, Ethan Bloom ‘24 established himself as a great player on the team after winning multiple trying matches against capable singles players. With some positive signs from the three doubles teams, Cate headed into Spring Break with hope for the remainder of the season. 

Scheduling wasn’t kind to Cate coming off the extended leave as they were immediately met with the challenge of facing Camarillo. Camarillo was a team that came into the match boasting a 10-1 record and seemed prime for a special season. However, Cate flipped a switch and played easily their best match of the season. Such a success gave Cate a huge boost heading into a rivalry match with Thacher. The Rams mowed through the weaker toads improving their record to 4-3 with a perfect league record. Despite this impressive form, an encounter with San Marcos ended the two-game win streak the Rams had worked hard to start. San Marcos was easily the most difficult team Cate had (and would) play all season and the match played out accordingly. Despite some inspired performances, the match was handled from the jump by the visitors and Cate was back to .500. 

The home stretch of the season began somewhat disappointingly. Cate faced Foothill Tech at home for what would eventually become the league championship. Cate was punched in the mouth falling to a 5-1 set deficit saved from a sweep only by a gutsy comeback by Ethan Bloom. From there Cate was faced with another uphill battle and the result was a narrow loss. Despite the closeness of the tie, it was still disheartening for many of the players. The following day team captain Ethan Bloom gave a speech that served as a wake-up call for many. Reinvigorated by their leader, Cate rattled off three straight wins. All three were controlled from start to finish by the Rams and they exemplified Cate’s newfound dedication to the badge and to the craft. Cate finished the regular season 7-4 and second in the league qualifying them for division one playoffs. 

However, playoffs produced a similar test of competitiveness. Individual playoffs were a way in which singles players and doubles teams competed with some of the best singles and doubles players in their league in a bracket format. Cate ended up entering four separate teams/singles players into the tournament. The first exit came from Cate’s second doubles team who ran into the future semifinalists in the first round and couldn’t overcome an early deficit. The next came in the second round when singles Ethan Bloom faced another future semifinalist in the top singles player from Foothill. Ethan jumped on top early but lost a couple of heartbreak points that turned the tables on the set. As for the remaining two representatives, both made it to the finals. The first team was Cate’s top doubles team consisting of juniors Nate Newlove ‘25 and Harry Su ‘25. The experienced duo steamed through the first three rounds, surrounding zero games and winning twenty. The final was a slightly different story though, as the team found themselves down 4-3 in the first set. Yet, as they had all year, Harry and Nate battled through and won the Tri-Valley doubles championship. The second of the two representatives was Kakeru Hirofuji. It was truly a culmination of all the work this freshman had put in. In the semi-finals, after going up one set to none he found the score even after a rocky second set. That left a ten-point tiebreak to decide who would play in the finals. Kakuru didn’t tense up a bit and with what felt like all of Cate cheering him on he won the tiebreak 10-7 booking a trip to the finals. With only thirty minutes in between matches, Kakeru marched back onto the court for his second win of the day. It was a rematch with a singles player he had lost to 6-0 earlier in the year. However, this time it was Kakuru jumping out to an early lead, securing the first set 6-1. Yet, his opponent didn’t go down easily and squeezed out a 6-4 win in the second set forcing the two to play a second tiebreak This time, Kakuru left his opponent in the dust, winning the breaker 10-5 and to the elation of himself and the team securing the Tri-Valley singles championship. Ultimately, Cate swept both championships, compensating for their disappointing second-place finish. 

Overall the team has led a great season and we are proud of them for their valiant efforts.


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