Gerschultz small but mighty

Jaclyn Gerschultz plays several sports, but before she started them all she was playing the piano.

She's been playing since she was about 4 years old. She practices everyday for 45 minutes, and each Monday she goes to Wenjen Piano Studios in Seal Beach.

"We have recitals once a month on the weekends, and then we have competitions like seven times a year where we go other places," Gerschultz said.

After talking to Gerschultz, a sophomore at Sage Hill School, one gets the idea that she can compete in whatever she wants. She played softball growing up, first as a pitcher then as a third baseman and shortstop. She would go to Torrance for travel-ball practices with her team, the OC Dynasty.

Just one problem. The Lightning don't have a softball program.

This didn't deter Gerschultz, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. Nowadays when she's not tickling the ivories, find her on the tennis court in the fall for Sage, the soccer field in the winter or running track in the spring. Last year she was Sage on the 4x100 relay team, along with Elise Sugarman, Sophia Potter and Lauren Thunen, that ran at the CIF Southern Section Division 4 preliminaries at Carpenteria High.

Don't be thrown off by Gerschultz's quiet nature. As a three-sport athlete, she packs a lot of athleticism into that 5-foot-2 frame. Oh yeah, did she tell you that she also has a black belt in taekwondo?

But, for now it's girls' tennis season, and Gerschultz has emerged as the most consistent singles player for a team that is contending for the Academy League title. She was 13-0 in league entering Friday's first-place showdown against rival St. Margaret's, and 26-10 overall. The Lightning toppled St. Margaret's, 12-6, as Gerschultz won two of three.

"She's really come out as a very solid singles player," Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said. "She's really stepped up for us ... It's hard to believe. Every coach of every sport wants her."

When she arrived at Sage Hill last year, Gerschultz had been playing tennis casually for a couple of years, but had never so much as played a match. Yet she excelled almost right away. Last year, she played at No. 1 doubles with then-senior Lauren Hsu, helping the Lightning unseat St. Margaret's and win their first league title in five years.

Gerschultz said at times she relied on the leadership of Hsu, who was one of three senior captains with Liana Korber and Kimberly Brown.

"I didn't really play tennis that much going in, but [Longoria] taught me a lot," Gerschultz said. "I got the hang of it quickly, and I really liked playing matches. It was really fun, so I kept going with it and carried on."

She played in singles tournaments over the summer, and now it's just her out on the court, no doubles partner around.

But Gerschultz is a handful for opponents. She is very consistent, not really going for winners and playing her game. That game has added up to victories for the Lightning.

"I play really consistently," said Gerschultz, who was on the all-tournament team at the Prep Classic that Sage Hill hosted. "Usually, people that go for every shot or even people that are consistent, I get them mad because I get every ball back. I usually don't go for winning shots or try to hit my hardest. It takes forever.

"It's tiring, but it's the adrenaline. You want to win it."

She definitely has that winning attitude. It was tough on Gerschultz the first time that Sage played St. Margaret's this year at home in the league opener, as she had to come out of the lineup after the first round due to sickness. The Lightning led, 4-2, at the time, but ended up dropping a 10-8 decision.

"I didn't feel good at all," she said. "I thought I would get through it, but I just didn't feel good. [It was tough] to watch. I couldn't do anything. I wanted to get out there really bad."

Gerschultz, again, was undeterred. Entering Friday's play, she had swept all three sets in each of Sage's four other Academy League victories. That included a 12-6 upset of Oxford Academy, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 2 at the time, on Oct. 4.

Now the young Lightning are the top-ranked team in the league, at No. 8 in Division 2. And they are young, with just one senior starter in doubles player Briana Rayhaun. But Gerschultz has teamed with fellow sophomore Celine Wang and junior Amira Tarsadia to form a dangerous singles lineup.

There is another Gerschultz in the pipeline. Jaclyn said her younger brother Robert, a seventh grader at The Pegasus School, plays even more sports than she does.

As for Jaclyn, she said her favorite sport to play now is probably tennis. She embodies the Lightning this year — small but mighty.

"We're a really young team," Gerschultz said. "We have seniors, but not like last year. We all didn't really know how this season was going to work out, but I think we worked really hard and we tried our best. A lot of people have stepped up."

None more so than Jaclyn Gerschultz.

Jaclyn Gerschultz

Born: April 5, 1998

Hometown: Huntington Beach

Height: 5-foot-2

Sport: Tennis

Year: Sophomore

Coach: A.G. Longoria

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite athletic moment: Helping Sage Hill clinch the Academy League title last year, defeating rival St. Margaret's at its home courts.

Week in review: Gerschultz swept in singles in a 16-2 win over Whitney, staying undefeated in singles in Academy League play.

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