Gerschultz a multi-talented force for Lightning

Jaclyn Gerschultz has won the Academy League singles MVP the last two years for Sage Hill.
(Dave Siegmund / Daily Pilot)

When Jaclyn Gerschultz arrived at Sage Hill School, she had never played a competitive match of tennis.

That’s hard to believe now as Gerschultz nears the end of a sparkling four-year career for the Lightning girls’ tennis team.

Gerschultz can tell you about her tennis journey for Sage Hill (14-2), which clinched the outright Academy League title on Friday by beating rival St. Margaret’s, 14-4. The senior co-captain played No. 1 doubles her freshman year and in singles the next three years.

Her cumulative record for Sage Hill is 170-89, including a 35-19 mark this year. She’ll be a favorite at the Academy League individuals tournament, which begins Tuesday at Cerritos Sports Park, after winning the league singles MVP award each of the last two years.

“She’s quiet, she’s kind of shy and she’s not a showoff,” Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said. “She just goes out and gets the job done. She always plays really tough when we need her.”

But Gerschultz can also talk about how she’ll be entering her third year as starting defender for the Sage girls’ soccer team this winter, or how she plans to return to the track team as a sprinter this spring. And she’s equally comfortable discussing her passions off the court.

They include the “Painting With A Purpose” club, which she started last year with Sage Hill classmate Alex Rafatjoo. Gerschultz has always really been into visual arts.

“We go to different underprivileged schools and kids’ clubs,” Gerschultz said. “We basically teach them about art, try to instill a passion of art. We found it as a way to escape, [something] to put our feelings into, and we hope to share that with other people.”

The club goes to Edward B. Cole Academy in Santa Ana once or twice a month, where Gerschultz and her classmates teach second- and fifth-graders.

“We bring all of the materials, and we teach them basically an artist each day that we visit them,” she said. “They don’t have anyone to teach them art. What if that’s what they want to do when they grow up? What if that’s actually their passion? They won’t have that chance to discover it, and so we’re trying to help them.”

Gerschultz likes to help people. She’s been playing piano since she was 3 years old, practicing every day for 30 to 45 minutes. She performs at senior centers once or twice a month through the Western Orange County Music Service League.

Her course load at Sage Hill is impressive, as she keeps a 4.15 grade-point average and is taking Advanced Placement classes in Biology, Calculus BC, Environmental Science and Studio Art, as well as classes in advanced composition and scientific research.

Science, specifically biology, is also a passion of Gerschultz’s. Her father, Steve, is an anesthesiologist at Whittier Presbyterian Hospital, where Jaclyn also has interned. She’s also doing an independent project through her scientific research class.

“We’re trying to find the causes and possible cures for multiple sclerosis,” said Gerschultz, whose mother, Christina, is the CEO and fashion designer for a company called Tse. “It’s a big ordeal, but even though we’re just students, it’s more trying to find methods and learn the possibilities of science.”

Gerschultz’s methods definitely are working on the tennis court for the Lightning, who are ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division 2. Gerschultz hopes for the opportunity to make the Division 2 title match, which would mean a trip to The Claremont Club. Sage won the Division 5 title there in 2005 before losing in the Division 4 title match in 2006 and 2008, as well as the Division 3 title match in 2010 and ’11 to rival St. Margaret’s.

The current senior class, led by captains Gerschultz, Connie Yu, Celine Wang and Marina Anderson, has never made that trip.

“I really hope that we have that chance,” she said. “That would be really exciting.”

This year, the Lightning have shown they’re great. Their only two losses are to Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor, which are ranked No. 2 and 5, respectively, in Division 1.

Gerschultz won twice on Friday against St. Margaret’s before she was subbed out, including a tiebreaker win over Elise Talley. She had lost to Talley in the teams’ first league meeting. Her Sage Hill teammate, sophomore Isabella Deckey, said Gerschultz battled through sickness to earn the victory Friday, helping the program capture its eighth league title after finishing second in league last year to the Tartans.

“I think she’s honestly an inspiration to all of us,” Deckey said. “She’s one of those players on our team that A.G. and everyone knows, she’s going to win. She’s kind of like the backbone of our team.

“I think she’s really sweet and she brings the whole team together. She’s friends with everyone on the team. On the court, she’s very calm. For me, I can kind of get tense sometimes, but with Jackie on the court she’s so calm. She doesn’t get angry with herself or show emotion, which is a huge aspect to tennis.”

To Gerschultz, that’s playing tennis with a purpose. And the results speak for themselves, in all aspects of her life.

“Having a whole bunch of interests is always really good, I think,” she said. “You can pick and choose which one is your favorite, which I haven’t done yet, but hopefully I’ll get there.”