Thaxter continues to fight for CdM

In tennis, as in life, there are many chances to get discouraged.

On the court, it hurts to hit an errant forehand that just misses long. It is frustrating to dump a volley into the net.

Then there are the moments in-between points, those times when a player is down a break of serve and self-doubt creeps in.

Lauren Thaxter is as competitive as any tennis player out there. But, at 16 years old, the Corona del Mar High junior also has the perspective that some spend a lifetime trying to find.

"It's just so different now," Thaxter said. "Now, for me, it feels like I'm already accomplishing something by being out there [on court]. Before, I would only feel accomplishment if I won. My sickness has definitely put my whole life in perspective, not just tennis. I would freak out if I got a 'B' or a 'C' on a test. Now, it's just like, that's not the big picture of life."

The sickness, atypical migraine headaches, does not define her. The big picture is that Thaxter is a fighter in everything she does. She earns the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week honor for her tennis skills. Playing at No. 1 singles for Coach Brian Ricker, she started 10-0 this year for CdM as the Sea Kings won their first four matches. Thaxter, who has a big backhand, swept against Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.

The numbers are impressive, but not nearly as much as Thaxter's resolve. It has been a difficult 12 months for her since she was diagnosed with her headaches.

Plenty of people get migraines, but Thaxter's are dangerous. Hers tend to come with "auras," precursors to seizures that lead to her getting extremely tired. She can suddenly collapse and go into a comatose state for hours at a time. Her mother Jayne, who is a pediatrician, said Lauren's longest "mini-coma" last year lasted for 16 hours.

Sometimes the migraines come in the middle of a match and they're too much to stand. Sometimes they're more mild, and she fights through it. She consumes plenty of caffeine and carries a medication, Maxalt, but it doesn't always work.

Twice in the first week of the girls' tennis season, Thaxter had auras. In a match at Beverly Hills, she subbed herself out after the first set. In a match against Sage Hill, she had a more mild one and fought through it, rallying to win a hard-fought set against the Lightning's Liana Korber.

"She's learning the condition and she's learning her body," Jayne Thaxter said. "It's that little fine line of, 'This one, I can ride it through, and this one I can't.' A year of experience has helped her a lot."

Yes, it's been almost exactly a year since that weekend last September. CdM was at a tournament in Fresno, where Lauren was born and raised. She had to sub out of her match. On a hot Central Valley day, it was assumed she was dealing with heat stroke. Then, the next morning it happened again.

"This time it was way worse," Jayne Thaxter said. "She was just throwing up, shaking, she started having a bloody nose for some reason. We had to take her into the bathroom, and that's where she passed out, went into a mini-coma. They called the paramedics, took her to the ER. In Fresno, they still thought it was heat stroke."

The Thaxters came home and rested. Then Lauren went to school the following Monday and it happened again. It was clear that they were dealing with something more than just heat stroke.

She had to stop going to CdM and utilize home and hospital schooling, tough to handle for such a dedicated student. She was gone from the girls' tennis team for five weeks.

"I was really bummed out," Lauren Thaxter said. "I was missing out on everything in life, not just tennis."

But she certainly finished the year strong in the sport she loves. She played in Pacific Coast League finals last November, pulling off an upset win over No. 2-seeded Krystal Lai of University, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8, before falling to Chloe Pham of Northwood in a three-set match.

Jayne had to leave the match against Lai early to go to work. She eventually sent her daughter a text message, telling her it was all right that she lost and that she should be proud for just being on the court.

Lauren surprised her mom, texting her back to say that she had actually won the match. Both mother and daughter now laugh at that moment.

"It was a good feeling to be able to text her that," Lauren Thaxter said. "It already felt good that she was so proud of me, even if I lost. The fact that I won made it 10 times better."

Things are better overall now for Lauren. She is back at school full-time. She has started playing in the girls' 18s at tournaments and had success, and she said she would love to play the sport in college.

The migraines and the auras are still there, too. Yet Lauren refuses to use that as an excuse.

"She really has an amazing attitude about it," senior teammate Shea O Hill said. "She's such a good student, such a good athlete and she's so hard-working and diligent. Nothing can really stop her, in a way. She has a lot of strength and she's really determined."

Lauren continues to show that resolve. Ricker has his Sea Kings back in Fresno this weekend for the same tournament. He told Lauren she didn't have to go and deal with the heat again, plus any bad memories from last year. There also will be challenging matches at the tournament, which will cause stress that can increase the likelihood of an attack.

Factors to consider, sure, but Lauren's response was immediate. She wanted to play.

"She's just a fighter, that's all there is to it," Ricker said. "She wants to attack; she's not willing to back down. She doesn't want to play doubles, which is a much easier road physically. She wants to play singles, because she feels like that's her role on this team. That's her personality and you see it in the way she plays ... she's definitely in fight mode."

It's the only mode that she knows. She said that as long as she's awake and alive, she wants to play.

"It's just the way I was taught and raised, to use your setbacks and mistakes as motivation instead of excuses," Lauren Thaxter said. "I never really wanted to give up on anything I did. I just feel like the pain and regret knowing you gave up, that feels a lot worse than going through hard training when you're sick. You know, that's a worse pain to me. [The work] is worth it.

"I'm excited [with the start of the season]. I mean, we'll see. There's going to be a lot more tough matches to come, but I'm excited how it's starting. It's a lot different than how my season started last year."

In tennis, as in life, there are so many chances to get discouraged.

Lauren Thaxter chooses the other road.

Twitter: @mjszabo


Lauren Thaxter

Born: Feb. 9, 1996

Hometown: Fresno

Height: 5 feet, 3 inches

Sport: Tennis

Year: Junior

Coach: Brian Ricker

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: "The Notebook"

Favorite athletic moment: Earning the No. 1 ranking in girls' 14s in Northern California, as a 13-year-old in 2009.

Week in review: Thaxter went 7-0 at No. 1 singles to help Corona del Mar win nonleague matches against Beverly Hills, Sage Hill and the Battle of the Bay against Newport Harbor.

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