CORONA DEL MAR — Lauren Thaxter went through various phases Wednesday afternoon on the Corona del Mar High tennis courts.
The No. 3-seeded CdM junior started strong at the Pacific Coast League finals, winning the first set of her semifinal match against No. 2-seeded Yuki Asami of University.
Then her atypical migraine headaches kicked in. Thaxter had an "aura," a precursor to a seizure that sapped her energy and speed.
Coach Brian Ricker wanted her to default the match. Midway through the second set, she vomited into a trash can on the side of the court.
As is her nature, Thaxter never stopped fighting.
But in the end, it was Asami that was able to earn a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory, knocking Thaxter out of the tournament in the semifinals for the second straight year. She was again a match shy of qualifying for CIF Individuals, and it was hard for her to take after the marathon match that lasted nearly three hours.
"I really wanted it this year, for my team and for myself," Thaxter said, fighting back tears. "But I tried my hardest, so there's nothing more I could ask for."
Thaxter did default the third-place match.
CdM's doubles team of Kenzie Purcifull and Riley Gerdau also lost in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-1, to the eventual champions, Shannon Theisen and Danielle Pham of University. Purcifull and Gerdau then lost the third-place match, 8-0, to another team from Uni.
For the second straight year CdM will have no representatives at CIF Individuals, which begin Nov. 19. It certainly wasn't due to a lack of willpower from Thaxter.
It has been another up-and-down year for her, due to her condition. She played in just six of 10 league matches for CdM, which finished second in league.
But at league finals, the way she competed surprised no one.
"It's interesting to watch the way she fights when these happen, the way she's willing to change her game and try different things," Ricker said. "That's just a fighter's instinct that you don't see in very many kids. She's not wanting to quit, but she's continually trying new strategies to see if something else will work ... She's just an unbelievable competitor."
Against Asami, Thaxter used her powerful backhand and aggressive forehand shots to take the first set.
But late in the set, she started hitting looping "moonballs" after she felt her strength leave her body.
But that was a strategy that was hard to use against a good player like Asami. The third set was much more competitive than the second, but Asami was able to power through.
University Coach John Kessler, who is familiar with Thaxter's story, found it tough to watch the match.
"You have to feel for her," said Kessler, as the match went to a third set. "She is gutting it out."
Thaxter may have lost in the semifinals again, but she could be proud of her effort.
"I felt [the aura] come on, maybe when I was up 5-3 in the first [set]," Thaxter said. "It peaked as soon as I won the set. Right away, all my strength and speed was gone. But [Asami] is amazing. I mean, she was playing really well.
"They unfortunately didn't go away. But I'd rather play through that pain than [have] the pain of not knowing what would happen, if I quit."
Stephanie Hazell of Woodbridge won the league singles title, defeating Asami, 8-6, in the championship match.
CdM's Kimmia Naaseh and Taylor Fogarty won the doubles back draw.
They defeated Corona del Mar teammates Shea O Hill and Skylar Dapp, 6-2, in the consolation final.
Ricker said CdM freshman Erica Chen won the league junior varsity singles title, defeating Sea Kings teammate Elena Fish in the title match.