Girls' Tennis: Thaxter leads CdM to win

Lauren Thaxter knew that Wednesday's nonleague girls' tennis match against Manhattan Beach Mira Costa was important, so she definitely wanted to play all three sets.

Sometimes that's easier said than done for Thaxter, a Corona del Mar High senior who has suffered from atypical migraine headaches for the past two-plus years. She only played one set in Tuesday's Pacific Coast League win over Woodbridge.

But the Thaxters had a new weapon this time: oxygen.

For the first time, Thaxter's mother, Jayne, brought a small black container which held an oxygen mask to the match. Lauren used it before, and during, the match.

"It takes away some of the pain," said Jayne Thaxter, who is a pediatrician.

And if there's one thing that's true about Lauren, a four-year varsity starter, it's that she's going to fight if she's on the court.

She swept at No. 1 singles as the Sea Kings earned a big win over the Mustangs, 11-7, at CdM.

The match was important, as CdM is ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and Mira Costa is No. 5. They could possibly meet again in the CIF quarterfinals.

Thaxter put the finishing touches on the victory. In the last set on court, she rallied for a 7-6 (7-4) victory over Mira Costa freshman Amy Gaal.

"I thought Thaxter had a great day today," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. "Three matches in one week, plus her school, plus her studies is too much. We just have to figure out the right formula for her. It's not that she couldn't have played more [Tuesday], but then she might not have been able to play all three today. Then we also have Uni [on Thursday], which is also a big match. It's more like management of how much she can put in each week."

Against Gaal, Thaxter mixed things up, hitting "moonballs" at times but also connecting on her most powerful weapon, her backhand.

"Her biggest qualities are how smart she plays and what a huge fighter she is," Ricker said. "Then she has that great backhand. When she was younger, I think she was more of a 'moonballer' ... but when someone can throw in moonballs and then step up and hit a ball, go on the offense, that causes a lot of trouble for opponents. Lauren's definitely good at that. She doesn't allow her opponent to get in any form of rhythm whatsoever.

"Even when she's on defense, she's really on the offense, because she's forcing the opponent to play her style of game."

CdM (8-1) dealt Mira Costa (9-1) its first loss of the season. The teams appear similar this year, with deep lineups. But CdM took a 4-2 lead after the first round, capped by a 6-2 victory by the No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Siena Sharf and freshman Jasie Dunk over Mira Costa freshmen Katarina and Isabella Draskovic.

Despite the 6-2 score, the set was the longest in the first round. Sharf and Dunk had two other long sets as well before prevailing, 6-2 and 6-4, for the sweep.

"It's nice to see everyone getting better," Ricker said. "Siena and Jasie, I've been getting on them to be more aggressive at the net and poach more. Jasie has gone from not poaching at all one week ago, to now doing a pretty good job. Siena has always kind of gone into the middle, and I want her to be even more aggressive and go more often ... they both have a lot of talent to play that style of game."

CdM had a 7-5 lead after two rounds. The match appeared likely to go to games, but Sharf and Dunk rallied from 3-4 down to earn their last win before Thaxter defeated Gaal in the tiebreaker.

Seniors Kenzie Purcifull and Kimmia Naaseh won twice at No. 1 doubles for CdM. Juniors Riley Gerdau and Shelby Anderson each won one set in singles, while junior Taylor Fogarty and sophomore Erica Chen won once at No. 3 doubles.

Corona del Mar now prepares to play at University on Thursday in a key Pacific Coast League match. The Trojans, ranked No. 2 in Division 1, have won the league each of the last three years. Prior to that, CdM had won 11 straight league titles.

"We were very close in a lot of the matches [in last week's 12-6 loss to No. 1 Peninsula]," Sharf said. "If we stay positive and keep fighting, I think we can pull through [against University]."

Thaxter will again want to play three sets. The oxygen may help again, but so will her willpower.

"I think she's just psychologically really strong this year," Sharf said.

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