The word “love” means “nothing” in tennis, but Laguna Beach High freshman tennis player Sarah MacCallum still has always had a special relationship with that emotion.
MacCallum was born on Valentine’s Day. She said she doesn’t really mind it.
“All of the restaurants are booked on my birthday, so I can’t really go out,” MacCallum said. “I get a lot of chocolate, but it’s really fun too at the same time.”
MacCallum first started loving tennis at a young age. She would go visit her grandmother Bobbie in the Niguel Shores community of Dana Point, and she would see people playing tennis at the community center there.
MacCallum, just 7 at the time, wanted to give it a try. Half her lifetime later, she has gotten her whole family into the sport. Younger siblings Jessica (12 years old), Rebecca (10) and Jacob (7) also play tennis.
Her father Todd has even picked up a racket, even though he originally wanted his oldest daughter to play golf, not tennis.
“He wanted us to share the same interests, but now he plays tennis,” Sarah MacCallum said. “He tries to warm me up before my matches. He’s not great, he’s not terrible.”
Sarah has been pretty great this season for the Breakers in her first year of high school tennis. She won the Wave League singles title Oct. 25 at Huntington Beach High, defeating Edison’s Zoe Coggins 6-3, 6-1 in the title match.
No. 2-seeded MacCallum almost never got there, but she outlasted Makenna Livingston of Marina 2-6, 6-2, 14-12 in the semifinals.
“I was really proud of myself, but I kind of got embarrassed when people came up to me, especially at school,” said MacCallum, who qualified for the CIF Southern Section Individuals tournament that begins Nov. 19. “I don’t usually get a lot of attention for my wins. It’s a little overwhelming, but it feels really nice. I wasn’t expecting it at all, especially with [teammate] Ella [Pachl] up there. I was surprised, but really happy.”
Coggins upset top-seeded Pachl, the Breakers’ No. 1 singles player, in the semifinals. But Pachl and MacCallum have helped the Breakers make their switch from the Orange Coast League to the Wave League a successful one.
Laguna Beach won the Wave League title, its 14th straight league championship. MacCallum certainly did her part, going 20-1 in league, the only loss to Huntington Beach freshman Cindy Huynh. MacCallum improved to 40-3 this season by sweeping in the Breakers’ 12-6 upset of No. 4-seeded Rancho Cucamonga Alta Loma on Wednesday in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
“Any team in Southern California would be blessed to have Sarah come in as a freshman,” Breakers coach Rick Conkey said. “Her commitment to the game and her professional approach to training are an example for all the kids. Her determination in matches and problem-solving ability are things that turn her into a leader and role model.”
Few teams around can offer a one-two punch like Pachl and MacCallum.
At just 5-foot-2, MacCallum’s game is not one based solely on pure power. Her use of the slice and her stamina helped during league, when she had to battle similarly talented players. She beat Coggins twice in league as well, two key sets as Laguna Beach earned a 10-8 victory each time.
“She has a chance against every opponent because she has so many different shots,” said Breakers junior teammate Vanessa Gee, who plays at No. 1 doubles for Laguna Beach with senior Megan Mindte. “She doesn’t just hit hard. She has multiple shots, and she also can get to a lot of balls.”
MacCallum likes to keep a balance. She’s a tournament player with a Universal Tennis Rating of 8, but sometimes she said she takes mental breaks from the sport. She likes to play the guitar, and it’s not unusual for her to find space in her schedule to go surfing for 30 to 45 minutes.
Tournaments do provide her another challenge. She is playing in the 116th annual Jim Hillman Southern California Junior Sectionals doubles tournament this weekend at Costa Mesa Tennis Center. MacCallum and partner Mika Ikemori of Huntington Beach are the top-seeded team in the girls’ 14s draw.
Then there was the time when MacCallum played in the J.P. Yamasaki tournament last month in Anaheim. For the first time, she faced a sibling in a tournament.
MacCallum and partner Eliana Hanna of La Cañada Flintridge had to play MacCallum’s younger sister Jessica and partner Katelyn Smith in the girls’ 14s doubles title match. The older MacCallum and Hanna prevailed in a tough match 6-4, 7-6.
“It was so hard, especially after the match,” Sarah MacCallum said. “I could tell she was sad … But my sister and her partner played very well, and they should be very proud of themselves for that.”
Born: Feb. 14, 2004
Hometown: Laguna Beach
Height: 5 feet 2
Coach: Rick Conkey
Favorite food: Bean and cheese burrito
Favorite movie: “50 First Dates”
Favorite athletic moment: Winning her first USTA National Level 3 doubles tournament in Lakewood with partner Eliana Hanna in September.