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Laguna Beach’s Jessica MacCallum wins first tennis gold ball

Laguna Beach's Jessica MacCallum, right, and her doubles partner Sophia Webster.
Laguna Beach’s Jessica MacCallum, right, and her doubles partner Sophia Webster pose with their gold balls won at the USTA National Doubles Championships in Florida.
(Courtesy of Todd MacCallum)

Gold balls are a rare commodity in junior tennis, as they can only be acquired by winning a national title.

Laguna Beach’s 15-year-old Jessica MacCallum continued her ascent in the sport last weekend and showed she was up to the challenge.

MacCallum and partner Sophia Webster of El Segundo won the United States Tennis Assn. National Doubles Championship on Sunday in Orlando, Fla. in the 16-and-under age division. MacCallum and Webster, seeded No. 5, defeated No. 3-seeded Conley Raidt and Saray Yli-Piipari of Georgia 7-5, 6-1 in the title match at the USTA National Campus.

It was the first gold ball of MacCallum’s junior tennis career. The Laguna Beach High School sophomore previously won a bronze ball, also in doubles, at the clay court nationals in Alabama earlier this summer.

“It was exciting,” MacCallum said in a phone interview. “It’s a lot different, winning a doubles tournament compared to a singles tournament. Doubles is a lot about your character on the court more. You have a partner, so it was nice to know that it worked out, that we enjoyed playing with each other and we were good enough to win a ball.”

Webster, who also won her first gold ball, is the daughter of UCLA women’s tennis coach Stella Sampras Webster.

MacCallum and Webster dropped just one set in their five matches, played in hot and humid conditions. They had to rally to beat top-seeded Taylor Goetz and Arina Oreshchenkova of New York, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in the semifinals. That match was especially difficult, in that it was their third match of the day, but they stayed positive.

“We make a good team,” said MacCallum, adding that she usually stays on the baseline while Webster patrols at the net. “I’m always really comfortable with her on the court. I think the reason why we do well and have a good time together is because we have good chemistry on the court. When somebody misses, especially on a big point, we don’t get upset at each other. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t do really well in doubles, because they’re so focused on winning and not being kind to the other person.”

MacCallum also is looking forward to the Laguna Beach girls’ tennis season. She will again play with her older sister Sarah, a senior on the team this year. Jessica MacCallum missed the Breakers’ first match, a 10-8 win over Sage Hill, due to the USTA Nationals, but said she plans to play in Wednesday’s match against Dana Hills.

Winning her first gold ball definitely was a good reason to miss the start of the high school season.

“Not a lot of people have even a bronze or a silver ball,” she said. “Having a gold is really exciting. I think recently, I’ve just been taking tennis more seriously. This could be a career for me, if I wanted it to be, if I keep pushing … When I’m on the court I just do whatever I can to win.”

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