Fall Sports Wrap-Up 2016

The Toads put another memorable season on the books.
Fall 2016 was a season filled with victories, growth, and fun for the Thacher Toads. Rookies tried new activities for the very first time and improved by leaps and bounds at each practice. Seasoned seniors stepped up to offer key leadership and to model dedication, teamwork, guts, and grit. Teams worked tirelessly to improve upon already strong past records. Losses were recorded—and learned from. And teammates supported each other at every turn.

We are extremely proud of the efforts, hard work, and sportsmanship that all of our teams exhibited throughout the whole season, said Athletic Director Pete Fagan. “Our student-athletes compete at every level with a strong commitment to winning and improving.”

Key highlights included:

  • Girls’ varsity tennis won their second straight CIF Champion title, the first Thacher team to ever do so
  • Varsity football went undefeated (4-0) in the regular season and made it to the semifinals in postseason play
  • Boy’s cross country qualified for the State Championships for the 9th time in 10 years and came out 6th in the state out of 400+ teams

This season had it all: Challenges, comebacks, losses, exciting plays, tight-knit teams. Now onto the next. Go Toads!

Girls’ Varsity Tennis
It has been an indisputably stellar four years for the girls’ varsity tennis team here at Casa de Piedra, thanks in large part to seniors Cara Dienst, Libby Kern, Jasmin Arculli, and Sydney De Polo. Their talent, determination, commitment, and leadership helped the team accomplish something that has eluded all other Thacher teams: They earned the CIF Champion title in two back-to-back seasons after beating Chaminade 13-5 in this year’s finals. In the league Thacher came in a strong second to Cate, beating Foothill, La Reina, and Carpinteria two times each, as well as notching victories over Rio Mesa and Laguna Blanca. In the playoffs, they beat North Torrance High School in the first round and Arroyo High School in the second round after a 9-9 set score and 74-70 game win. In the third round they notched a 14-4 win at Alta Loma High School and in the semi-finals, they beat Flintridge Prep 11-7 at home. As the seniors closed out their final season on the Thacher courts, there was a lot to be proud of in their four-year legacy. During that time, the team earned the following: three league champion titles, six league MVP player awards, three CIF finalist titles, two CIF Championship titles, and a four-year overall record of 65-9.

Girls’ JV Tennis
The girls’ JV tennis team came to win this season. Under the strong leadership of senior Bridget Levy (who had an impressive 19-1 personal record) the team notched a 4-1 league record and a 6-1 season record. Their list of wins included two victories over rival Cate and an 11-7 comeback win over Carpinteria after having lost to them earlier in the season. As Coach Swift noted, the Carp victory was especially exciting to watch as many of the players fought hard and won the exact same matchups they’d previously lost. Among the many strong contributors to this year’s team were doubles partners Else Nye ’20 and Anna-Liisa Eklund ’19 (also known as the “Frozen” team) who started in the #2 slot and went on to beat the #1 opposing doubles team in five out of six matches. Here’s to another great season on the Thacher courts!

Football
It was another strong season for Coach Jeff Hooper’s varsity football team. Great leadership by veteran seniors Laurence Jackson, Jacques Robles, Reese Proctor, Zion Alcindor, Braden Roh, and Bob Farrelly, the team came away with an impressive 4-0 league record and a 7-3 season record. Coach Hoop called it “a complete joy from start to finish, thanks in large measure to outstanding senior leadership.” Laurence and Jacques, in particular, graduate having had perhaps the largest impact on the program of any two players, as both started games for all four years of their Thacher careers. The season started with an away game in Pahranagat Valley, Nevada—the program’s first-ever outside of California—with the helpful hospitality of Carla Van Kalsbeek P’16 and P’18. The team continued on to be undefeated in the league and advanced to postseason play (beating San Jacinto Valley Academy handily in the first round 68-42, Avalon in the quarterfinals 55-26) before falling to Faith Baptist in the semifinals 36-68. Special mention goes out to Laurence Jackson, who had one of the finest seasons by a Toad ever with over 800 yards both rushing and receiving, all while also anchoring the defense; Laurence, Reese Proctor, and Zion Alcindor for making First Team All-CIF; and Jacques Robles and Adam Marcelo for receiving Honorable Mention.

Girls’ Cross Country
This year the girls’ cross country team was led by captain Sara Jacobsen (the sole senior), who offered great leadership to this relatively young squad of runners. The season saw serious improvement across the board: A majority of team members improved on their times by a full minute, and some of the girls improved by an amazing two minutes. Particular contributions came from talented runner Caroline DelVecchio ‘19, who was selected as Most Valuable Player for her consistently impressive times. The team closed out the season 6th in the league.   

Boys’ Cross Country
Twenty-six runners, including six freshmen, assembled this fall to carry on the boys’ cross country team’s well-established tradition of excellence. The boys entered the season ranked 4th in the CIF Southern Section and 7th in the state. Though this season they had lost Peter Callan, the School’s best distance runner, to Colorado College, the remaining runners stepped up, trained well over the summer, and improved to become an impressive team in their own right. They started out strong at the first important race of the season, the Tri-County Athletic Association (TCAA) meet #1, coming in 3rd of eleven schools and best of the D5 teams by a wide 8-minute cumulative margin. TCAAA meet #2 found the boys in 2nd of eleven (just behind Foothill Tech, a D4 school ranked 2nd in the state). At the Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Invitational the boys placed 3rd out of 23 teams in their race, and at the TCAA Championships, they took 3rd again to take them to the postseason. The runners came out strong and finished 4th in the Southern Section Finals out of about 180 schools, logging a very fast Top 5 cumulative time of 81:34. They qualified for the State Championships for the 9th time in 10 years and headed to Fresno on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to compete in a race that included well over 400 schools. They ran according to form and came out 6th in the State to cap off a truly impressive season.

Girls’ Varsity Volleyball
This season was one of rebuilding and change for the girls’ varsity volleyball team. New coach Mark Zalin, who has coached at a number of independent schools and at the university level, as well as led many clinics, skills camps, and training programs, was excited to lead the program this year and join the Thacher community. A number of scrappy battles and exciting wins at home and on the road showed regular improvement and dedication. And fantastic leadership by senior captains Poppy Brittingham, Faith Earley, Jordan Perry, and Alex Varon made for a tight-knit team that bonded during post-game meals and also committed to inspiring hustle and “all-out” plays throughout the season. Coach Zalin especially remembered the “thrilling five-game comeback win on the road against Santa Paula” and the “great, noisy crowd for ‘Senior Night.’” The team ended the season with a 3-9 league record and a 6-10 season record.

Girls’ JV Volleyball
The girls’ JV volleyball team was full of heart this season. Coach Omansiek noted: “Two highlights would be the individual improvements the girls made and how much fun they had each day in practice. They worked hard, danced a lot, smiled a lot, and were hugely supportive of one another. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to work with.” Although it was a particularly large roster—19 players in total—every girl that dressed for each game saw playing time, offering ample opportunity to hone skills and improve. The team’s two wins this season were, of course, memorable moments. The first was on the road at Malibu, where the team was unphased by a particularly rowdy group of high school boys in the audience and went on to win 2-1. The second was another 2-1 win at home in front of a huge crowd of parents and students.

Rock Climbing
This fall the rock climbing program was more popular than ever, with the largest group of climbers to date. The group started the season with the basics: Bouldering out near the Gymkhana Field and learning critical knots (figure-eight follow through, bowline, and butterfly knot) and belay techniques on the lawn in front of Camp Supply. Once they’d solidified these crucial skills they moved on to climbing with ropes at Y-Crack and Banjo Cave right here in our backyard. Wednesdays the group ventured from campus to nearby Foothill Crag and Portreo John Wall where they put their skills to the test on certain climbs while also simply enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of these special natural landscapes. As instructor Brian Pidduck noted “In this sense, climbing is a very simple pursuit. [Climbing instructor] Bo and I appreciate this aspect of the sport and are, of course, happy to see our students demonstrate the same level of appreciation.” Two overnight weekend camping trips—one to Horse Flats in the Angeles National Forest and one to Tahquitz Rock near Idyllwild—brought new challenges and landscapes. Horse Flats contains mostly bouldering opportunities. Given its location in an idyllic mountaintop forest, the group was, nevertheless, happy to “play on the granite monoliths and never break out a rope.” Climbers took skills learned on the Thacher campus and put them to use on Das Problem, The Fang, Opposition Movement, and the Refrigerator. At Tahquitz Rock the group tackled some tough multi-pitch climbing, taking on climbs piece-by-piece over a few hours. These experiences are critical: Climbers apply skills they initially developed on the lawn in front of Camp Supply and slowly learn how to tackle bigger objectives. Mr. Pidduck offered: “A very appropriate analogy is the one offered by Rick Ridgeway in a talk he gave to the school a few years ago: ‘How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.’  We follow this same process in climbing, whether it is in the climbing itself or in the process of learning how to climb and use the necessary safety systems (ropes, carabiners, hardware, etc.).”

Dance Ensemble
Eight veteran dancers and five new freshmen hit the dance studio this fall. They took instruction in ballet, modern, and jazz styles throughout the season and worked on improvisation and choreography exercises that helped to broaden their understanding of different movement phrases and their origins. Dancers also attended contemporary classes on Saturdays with Tracy Kofford, director of the SBCC Dance Department. Building strength was also a priority. Near the end of the term the group worked on strength training at a local pilates studio.
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