Once again, the Thacher sports season concluded with successes across the athletics program; every varsity team made it into the CIF playoffs. Positive attitudes and perseverance carried the football team
into the championship game after early losses, and the volleyball team
to victories after a couple of slow starts. But ultimately, the test of success at Thacher is more than the number in the win column. Take the rock climbers—while they practice non-competition, they, like all the athletes, push their physical limits to strive for excellence, individually and cooperatively.
Interim Athletic Director Tyler Popa recapped the season:
A combination of great coaching, ambitious individuals, and team spirit propelled Thacher athletics to another great fall season. As interim athletic director, I have the great privilege of being close to so many young people who step into roles of leadership, push themselves past their own perceived limits, try out new sports, take on new roles for their teams, and act selflessly on the court or field. Although we had some great achievements this fall, we recognize Thacher Athletics is never solely about the final score. The pursuit of excellence for oneself and more importantly for the team is always our guiding principle.
Some highlights of the season include many of our teams competing well enough to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Playoffs. Our girls’ volleyball team, who every year fights an uphill battle by starting their season later than all of our competitors, saw not only a postseason berth, but a road victory which led to the first home playoff game in many years. Girls’ tennis also saw another great season, finishing second in the Tri Valley League and securing a spot in the playoffs. Boys’ and girls’ cross country continued a strong tradition of success, qualifying for the Southern Section Finals. The boys’ cross country team finished sixth in the Southern Section, which kept alive their streak of consecutive qualifications for the State Meet in Fresno. Lastly, boys’ football had quite the season in Mr. Hooper’s return from sabbatical. After starting 2-3, the boys never gave up hope. Starting with a comeback win at Cate in the last game of the season, the boys then won three consecutive playoff games, which earned them the right to play for the Southern Secion finals. Overall the team accomplishments were very impressive.
Girl’s Varsity Cross Country
The girls’ cross country
team had a successful season. Seven freshmen ran this year, which is the largest turnout in years. The team placed 3rd in the league and 8th at CIF finals in Division 5. With only one senior on the team most runners will be returning, so with the addition of this year's freshmen, Coach DelVecchio expects to have a strong team next year.
Most Valuable Player: Karina ’21
Most Improved Player: Sophie G. ’20
Most Inspirational: Sophie B. ’21
Girls’ JV Cross Country
The team ran in two league meets. Coach Megan Carney wrote, “I loved coaching this team! What a wonderful group of girls, and Lila ’20 did an outstanding job as captain, creating an environment that promoted both hard work and fun. The girls pushed themselves to become stronger and in better shape, and they did so with positive attitudes and a lot of encouragement for one another. More than anything, this experience showed the girls that running can be a great lifelong activity that reduces stress and empowers you to become healthier, stronger, and to work through difficult times. Plus, it helped that we got to spend the beautiful afternoons out and about in this gorgeous place!”
Boys’ Varsity Cross Country
Boys’ cross country continued a long-standing tradition of excellence this year. With three seniors graduating from last year’s roster, they had a young team this year, but they also had the biggest team in recent memory. Cross country is a tough sport; the boys endure it and even learn to enjoy it. “There’s nothing quite like running on the Thacher track, with the incredible Ojai Valley in the background, or running up trotting hill, gaining a bit of empathy for what your horse used to endure taking you up to the incredible views. The feeling of accomplishment after a hard workout and the camaraderie you get when you waddle back up to your dorm make it worth it,” said the head coach, Mr. Popa.
As a team, they worked and worked, gaining the respect of opponents as they climbed the rankings in southern section. Meets at Lake Casitas, Camino Real, and Mt. Sac all proved great training for the Southern Section Finals (some of the most competitive in the country). The team finished 5th in the Southern Section, qualifying once again for a trip to State Finals. There the team competed against the best schools in the division and finished 13th. Among the highlights of the year was the new School record in a 3-mile race set by Winslow ’20 at Camino Real Park (15:25).
Most Valuable Player : Winslow ’20
Most Improved Player: Kuma ’22 and Javier ’23
Most Inspirational: Jacob ’20
Boys’ JV Cross Country
The boys’ JV cross country
team followed a solid progression as they improved their fitness over the season. By season’s end, all of the runners improved their times enough to close the gap between Thacher and Cate by 11 points.
Most Valuable Player: James ’20
Boys’ Varsity Football
This year, the football team had an impressive showing, making it all the way to the 8-man football finals. The team’s competition in the championship game carried the fall sports late into November, and the home games drew impressive crowds. After struggles early in the season, the team coalesced and scored 40 points in the second half of the last regular-season game to beat Cate 48-32. From there, they won three playoff games in a row, defeating Coast Union 67-29, Chadwick 53-46, and Sage Hill 46-21, before falling to Windward in the CIF Finals. Excellent leadership from all five seniors made for a rewarding and successful season.
Most Valuable Player: Jackson ’20
Most Improved Player: James ’20
Most Inspirational: Michael ’20
First Team All-CIF: Tyler ’20, James ’20. Mike ’20, Jackson ’20
Offensive Player of the Year, CIF-SS 8-Man Football Division: Jackson
Honorable Mention All-CIF: Bryan ’20
Coach Brian Pidduck summed up the season: “The group benefited from a strong squad of returning climbers and senior leaders who pushed the limits of Thacher climbing and embraced our philosophy of cooperative learning and wilderness appreciation. Our seniors modeled thoughtful, non-competitive climbing and inspired our next generation of younger climbers to respect the rocks and love the simple act of moving over stone. We tested our physical limits with challenging workouts and climbs that continue, season after season, to increase in difficulty. We cheered each others’ successes and softened (with skillful spotting) each others’ falls. Each day, we enjoyed each other’s company, challenged our perceived limitations, and appreciated time spent with like-minded schoolmates in the beauty of Thacher’s hills.”
Most Impressive Climbs: Wyatt ’21 and Charlie T. ’21
Fellowship of the Rope: Jake ’20
Mentor Climber: Owen ’20
Most Improved Climber: Charles E. ’22
Girls’ Varsity Tennis
Girls’ varsity tennis had a successful season, finishing with a 9-3 record overall and 5-3 in league play and qualifying to compete in the CIF playoffs. Head Coach Peter Fagan was pleased to share that the team “scored quality wins over rival Foothill Tech and St. Bonaventure.”
Most Valuable Player : Natalie ’22
Girl’s JV Tennis
The girls experienced another season of bonding, laughing, and growing together. While the season was rocky in terms of competition, the group grew closer and supported each other throughout all the stresses of everyday life. A particular highlight was the occasional gym days and the group exercises; while they were often chaotic, everyone ended up smiling, laughing, and being in a much better mood. Coach Rahman said, “Each afternoon, there was no other place I’d rather be than with this particular group of young women
Most Valuable Player: Charlotte ’20
Most Improved Player: Sandy ’21
Most Inspirational: Grace ’20 and Joi ’21
Girls’ Varsity Volleyball
Head coach, Iona Popa said that the girl’s varsity volleyball team was more than a squad, they were a family. “Abbey would lead us out with, ‘Family on 3! 1..2..3…’,” she said, “to which the whole team responded, ‘Family!!’” They also had an excellent season making it into the CIF playoffs and winning their first playoff game. The highlight of the season might have been the second playoff games, played during Family Weekend at home, in front of a packed gym. Other highlights included coming behind after losing the first two sets to beat Bishop Diego and beating Villanova soundly after losing at home in the first week of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Chrissy ’20
Most Improved Player: Julia ’21, Christina ’22
Most Inspirational: Abbey ’20
Girls’ JV Volleyball
While the JV girls
ended the season winless, the kids worked hard and had fun. For the first time in a long time, freshmen made up half of the JV volleyball roster’s sixteen players. The players were excited about their improvement during the season. They were excited to work as a team and they were super supportive of one another. The season was indeed valuable for all involved.
Most ValuablePlayer: Chisom '21
Most Improved Player: Keira" '22
Most Inspirational: Courtney '23