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Laguna Beach’s Jessica MacCallum continues to rise in junior tennis

Laguna Beach's Jessica MacCallum hits a forehand.
Laguna Beach’s Jessica MacCallum hits a forehand in the championship match of a National Level 2 tournament against top seed Emily Deming at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Having just watched her daughter, Jessica MacCallum, lose to Fallbrook’s Emily Deming in the final of a major tournament for the second time in weeks, Stefanie Fightlin was philosophical as she packed up her folding chair on Monday afternoon.

“There’s only one person in the tournament that did better than her,” Fightlin said. “That’s how I always put it.”

It was a good life lesson for MacCallum on an otherwise rough day. The No. 6 seed from Laguna Beach lost to top-seeded Deming, 6-2, 6-2, in the girls’ 16 singles title match of the National Level 2 tournament at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach.

"[My strategy] was to hit higher to her backhand, but that wasn’t really working,” MacCallum said. “I was just trying to win as many points as I could. She’s really tough; she gets to a lot.”

MacCallum, 15, seems primed for a bright future. In this tournament she earned an impressive 6-2, 6-1 win over Daniela Borruel of Buena Park in the round of 16 on Saturday, before upsetting No. 2-seeded Michela Moore of Monte Sereno 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

"[Borruel] is a really good player,” MacCallum said. “I just played out of my mind, really. My game plan was really good, I kept with it and I was consistent with my level. I didn’t really get upset, which is something that sometimes brings me down, if I’m mad at myself or mad at something else. That match gave me a lot of confidence.

“Everyone is good, so I feel really accomplished. I’m just happy to have gotten so far.”

Laguna's Jessica MacCallum hits a backhand in the championship match of a National Level 2 tournament on Monday.
Laguna’s Jessica MacCallum hits a backhand in the championship match of a National Level 2 tournament against top seed Emily Deming at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Her level was up and down in the final, but credit Deming. The 13-year-old earned her second significant win over MacCallum after beating her 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the 118th annual United States Tennis Assn. Southern California Junior Sectionals tournament.

“It means a lot,” Deming said. “We had a tough year last year, not playing anything, so it feels really good to actually be playing tournaments, getting to the finals and winning them.”

MacCallum had her serve broken four times in the first set of Monday’s match, as Deming zipped out to the early lead. Both players’ levels appeared to drop in the second set, which started with a MacCallum break of serve.

She nearly went up 2-0 in the set. On her game point at 40-30, Deming’s serve return appeared to be long, but MacCallum didn’t call it. Her serve was eventually broken in the game, and she said the missed call stayed in her head for a while.

She broke Deming’s serve in the following game to move ahead 2-1, but Deming won the final five games of the match.

“I think I made more adjustments,” Deming said. “I was missing more, and she started attacking the ball more, so I had to get my balls deeper.”

No. 1 seed Emily Deming hits a forehand against Laguna's Jessica MacCallum at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach on Monday.
No. 1 seed Emily Deming hits a forehand against Laguna’s junior Jessica MacCallum at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

MacCallum said she is looking forward to the upcoming high school tennis season, which would be her first. The Breakers have a good chance of getting one in, as tennis is one of the sports that can be played in the purple tier for reopening during the pandemic.

Laguna Beach has MacCallum’s older sister, Sarah, a junior who teamed with graduate Ella Pachl to win the CIF Southern Section Individuals doubles title in the fall of 2019. Sophomore Katelyn Smith is another key player.

“It’ll be fun,” Jessica MacCallum said.

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