Fall 2017 Sports Wrap-Up

Boys’ cross country makes history, girls’ JV tennis goes undefeated, and more!
It was an exciting season for the Toads here at Casa de Piedra. Through challenges and successes, the character and commitment of our Thacher athletes were on full display once again.

For the football team, it was a year of rebuilding. “Although their successes weren’t realized on the scoreboard, they played through injuries and adversity to challenge their opponents at each game,” said Athletic Director Pete Fagan. “Coaches and players alike never wavered in their efforts to improve, stay positive, and show grit and resolve.”

In the Voit Gym, the girls’ varsity volleyball team showed their fair share of grit, too. Though they started out as a new and inexperienced team, which led to some tough early season losses, “they righted the ship at the Santa Paula tournament (finishing second) and avenged many of the early season losses to league opponents, ultimately qualifying for CIF for the first time in a few years,” said Mr. Fagan.

The girls’ varsity tennis team also qualified for CIF after finishing tied for second in a tough Tri-Valley league and earning a strong 9-2 record.

“The highlight of our season came from our cross country teams,” said Mr. Fagan. “Both the girls’ and boys’ teams ran incredibly well in the postseason. The girls’ team finished fourth in the CIF Southern Section and 11th in the State Championships. The boys’ team showed they were the strongest team in the history of the School, winning the Division V CIF Southern Section title and finishing 2nd in the state tournament. Hours of training surely paid dividends. As always, it's a pleasure to work with and watch these student-athletes put forth nothing short of their best efforts.”  
Go Toads!

Thirteen varsity runners, including one freshman, assembled this fall to carry on the boys’ cross country team’s tradition of excellence. They entered the season ranked 3rd in the CIF Southern Section, having lost no one from an excellent squad that finished sixth in the state last year. Everyone improved greatly during the season to become an even better team. The first important race was the Tri-county Athletic Association (TCAA) meet #1, where the boys finished 2nd of eleven schools and were the best Division 5 team by a wide margin. TCAA Meet #2 was another successful afternoon—the boys finished 3rd of eleven. The team finished 2nd of eleven again in the TCAA Championships at Lake Casitas, going through to postseason competition easily. In the Sectional Prelims the team ran relaxed, finished 1st in their heat of 17 teams (also 1st place out of 52 teams in three heats combined), and qualified for the Southern Section Finals. Seven days later, they won the Southern Section Championship out of about 130 schools (with a top-five cumulative time of 80:06, very fast) to qualify for the State Championships for the tenth time in the last eleven years. This was the second Thacher cross country team to win the Southern Section Championship. (In 2012, the girls’ cross country team won the Southern Section Championship and then went on to place 2nd in California.) In Fresno, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, the boys duplicated the 2012 girls’ achievement with an impressive 2nd place finish in the State Championship! Thacher was the fastest team on the day by 18 seconds but lost by a hair on cross country scoring.

Most Valuable Player(s): Colin Kirkpatrick ’19 and Ford Shaper ’19 (the lead “Two Pack”)
Most Improved Novice Runner: Chris Robinson ’18
Most Improved Veteran Runner(s): Winslow Atkeson ’20 and Toby Arculli ’20

After a disappointing season last year—they failed to even qualify for the postseason—the girls’ cross country team, led by captains Caroline DelVecchio ’19 and Lily Harding ’19, bounced back in a big way in 2017. They came into the season with their sights set on one goal: qualify to compete in the state championships. The team worked extremely hard and ran well throughout the fall; by the end of the season, they’d earned a spot competing in the CIF Southern Section Finals for Division V, meaning they were one step closer to their goal. The runners brought their best to the course, with almost every girl on the team finishing the competition with a personal record and three athletes breaking 20 minutes—an impressive feat on all fronts. Their efforts earned them 4th place and a spot at states. Heading into this final, major test of the season, the team knew they faced a tough battle, with three of their four top runners unable to compete that day. The girls once again rallied, however, ultimately running hard and placing 11th—far higher than they’d expected, given the circumstances. Yes, this team did exactly what they set out to do and then some. And as they look toward next season (they won’t be losing any runners from this strong roster), they’re feeling confident that the team has set itself up for even more success.

Most Valuable Player: Tess Edwards ’19
Most Improved Player: Barkley Bennett ’20

The girls’ varsity tennis team, under the excellent leadership of captains Béa Pierrepont ’18, Olivia de Polo ’18, and Kelly Oh ’18, played very well all season long and ultimately tied for second in the league and qualified for postseason play. They fell to Valencia in the first round of CIF playoffs but wrapped with an impressive 7-3 league record and 9-3 season record. Highlights included a win against Foothill that avenged an earlier season loss; senior Mary Yan’s exciting win in a singles match against Foothill that clinched the overall win for Thacher; and senior Maddy Waltemath’s impressive win in a singles match against Carpinteria.

Most Valuable Player: Béa Pierrepont ’18
Most Improved Player: Margaret Phipps ’19
Most Valuable Teammate: Béa Pierrepont ’18

These players were unstoppable. Led by seniors Annie Langan, Apple Farrelly, Olivia Driscoll, Olivia Edmondson, Pa Houa Xiong, Willa Hancock, and Helena Girardoni, the girls’ JV tennis team was undefeated all season long, coming away with a 4-0 league record and a 10-0 season record. The consistent improvement of every player on the team throughout the season, their spirit of camaraderie, fun, and team relationships, and the strong leadership of the team all came together to make for a memorable and successful season.

Most Valuable Player: Helena Girardoni ’18
Most Improved Player: Lily Annenberg ’20
Most Valuable Teammate: Willa Hancock ’18

Twenty-five climbers enjoyed a safe, challenging, and fun autumn on the rocks. By season’s end, eleven first-year climbers had earned their C-Climber ratings. Six advanced climbers had successfully completed the requirements for their B-Climber ratings. And all the climbers supported each other, celebrated each other’s successes, and cherished the time they spent together on the rocks, trails, and ridges of our beautiful valley. Coach Bob St. George ably filled in as the sabbatical replacement for Brian Pidduck and brought to the program plenty of climbing know-how and experience. Of equal value were the kind, thoughtful and enthusiastic attitude and support he shared with the group! The climbers voted on four team awards:

Most Improved Climber Award: Jake Arculli ’20. As a sophomore and first-year climber, Jake impressed the group with his enthusiasm, dedication, and ability. By season’s end, he was routinely completing many campus “test pieces,” such as Jameson Face, Batman Direct, and The Mountaineers Route.

Mentor Climber Award: Finn Keilty ’18. As one of the senior leaders, Finn offered everyone his steady support. A supportive, encouraging, instructive, and helpful climber, especially to the new climbers in the program.

Most Impressive Climber Award: Owen Dexter-Meldrum ’20. Only a sophomore, he has already earned his B-Climber rating and completed just about every challenging route on campus. He routinely completes boulder problems and top-roped routes that set the standard for Thacher climbers. He has also begun to lead climb both bolted sport routes as well as “trad” climbs. In addition to Owen’s impressive ability, he brings to the sport a wonderfully positive, thoughtful, and appreciative attitude.

The Fellowship of the Rope Award: Thomas Hudson ’18. He embodied a spirit of adventure and camaraderie and embraced the physical and mental challenge, safety, and a love for the simple act of climbing in the outdoors. Thomas returned for his senior season of climbing with all the energy and enthusiasm that has come to define his participation over the years. His approach was informed by his genuine love of the out of doors and time spent on the rocks. Thomas embraced every opportunity to share his knowledge of climbing safety systems and techniques with his teammates. In return, they appreciated his attention and valued his advice.

This was a year of challenge and growth for Thacher football. A steep learning curve—the team was reliant on a lot of young players—combined with a very challenging schedule meant that they didn’t quite find their footing until midway through the season, after which they played better and better with each passing week. The turnaround was aided by the leadership of captains Adam Marcelo ’18 and Elias Ceseña ’18 and seniors Peter Conte, Grayson Hodge, and Francisco Zamora—all of who modeled an infectious resilience in the face of adversity for the younger players. The biggest highlight came during their final game against rival Cate. They traveled there to play a very good, very big team and competed heroically in what the coaches described as one of the most memorable games in the program’s history. Ceseña made a thrilling, extraordinary catch to put them up 28-27 with under four minutes to go. Though they couldn’t quite hang on for the win, the coaches were extremely proud of the effort and perseverance that the team displayed—during that game and throughout the season.

Most Valuable Player: Elias Ceseña ’18
Most Improved Player: Jackson Hollins ’20
Most Inspirational Player: Peter Conte ’18

Dancers of all skill levels spent the fall term studying ballet, modern dance, and jazz techniques, which started out with strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as barre work to focus on alignment, turnout, and extensions. Then the dancers progressed to learning combinations across the floor, including a wide variety of jumps and turns. In particular, the group’s work on a long jazz combination set to the song Black and Gold by Sam Sparro stood out as a highlight of the season. The dancers were also exposed to Horton technique once a week during a modern class taught by guest teacher Eboni Morrow Payne, expanding their understanding of movement and dance.

Most Inspirational Dancer: Yosephina Peters ’18
Most Improved Dancer(with previous experience): Grace Zhang ’19
Most Improved Dancer(s) (new to dance this year): Carina Fung ’20 and Joy Mathebula ’20

The girls’ varsity volleyball team started the season 0-6—a rough beginning for a young team with a new coach. But the team, led by captains Libby Galgon ’19, Devon Roberts ’19, and Paiton Gleeson ’18, soon rose to the occasion and took home a second place trophy at the Santa Paula tournament, which gave the team a glimpse of what they were truly capable of. They learned to live and play as a team, in victory and in defeat. The tournament was a major turning point for them—they lost only two games after that day—and the team ended up making the playoffs after finishing the season with a 6-8 season record and a 5-7 league record. The first round game of CIF playoffs took the team on a six-hour journey by bus to Mammoth High School. Though the team ultimately lost 29-31—an impressive result in the sport of volleyball—they battled up until the very final moment in what proved to be a fantastic game. Over post-game pizza, the team and coaches agreed that the Toads could not be better poised to dominate next season.

Most Valuable Player: Libby Galgon ’19 and Chrissy St. George ’20
Most Improved Player: Mya Bolden ’20
Best Teammate: Jessica Donohue ’19

This was, by most measures, one of the most successful girls’ JV volleyball teams Thacher has had in a number of years. Players worked hard to improve both their offensive and defensive play— and it showed. Long rallies showcased their talents and hustle, and their strong service game revealed that there was not a single spot in the rotation where they didn’t have an effective server. Hitters worked hard to both spike and tip the ball smartly and their court coverage on the defensive side of the net improved greatly as the season progressed, often frustrating opponents as they kept points alive. The team won a total of 18 sets this season, including at least one set against each opponent. They also won six of their final nine games, showcasing how much the team improved as the season progressed. The highlight was the second to last game of the season against Santa Paula. A large crowd of cheering students, teachers, and parents helped fuel the team—they fed off that support, wowing the crowd with inspiring play and a 2-1 win. They wrapped with a 6-6 season record and 7-8 league record.

Most Valuable Player: Eve Spalding ’20
Most Improved Player(s): Maya Wendel ’19 and Malena Solin ’20
Most Inspirational Player(s): Alice Tang ’19, Eve Spalding ’20, Riley Carney ’20, Sydney Yates ’19

Though the experience level of the players varied, their level of enthusiasm for the game and support for one another was unwavering. Practices for this team centered around developing fundamental skills and an understanding of the game, with the primary goals of developing confidence on the court, a level of comfort with the skills sets required by each of the six positions, and to build a cohesive and supportive team. By the season’s end, this group had coalesced into a relatively strong unit, playing with increased levels of competence and control: serving with confidence, passing predictably, setting consistently, hitting when possible, and even pulling off a block or two. Highlights came during their first match, which saw them pull off a big win against Ojai Valley School, and during their final match, which featured a come-from-behind victory in the second game.

Most Valuable Player: Kennedy Roberts ’21
Most Improved Player: Alexa Guloy ’21
Most Inspirational Player: Maya Watanabe ’21

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