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The late bloomer

Laguna's Jake Michaels didn't start playing tennis seriously until he was 15, but in the four years since, he's guided the Breakers to back-to-back CIF finals and will play for Cornell University next year.

June 16, 2011|By Mike Sciacca, michael.sciacca@latimes.com
  • Laguna Beach High's Jake Michaels.
Laguna Beach High's Jake Michaels. (Kevin Chang, Coastline…)

In a span of four years, Jake Michaels has successfully been able to hold court.

That short time frame has seen the Laguna Beach High senior go from novice to an accomplished junior player who in May won his first Orange Coast League singles title. He also was a driving force behind the Breakers' run to a CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals appearance earlier this month at Claremont Club.

Not bad for an athlete who said he first picked up a racquet at age 10 and played only once a month until, at 15, he began to play tennis daily.

Playing national soccer, he said, took up most his sports calendar between the ages of 6 and 15.

"We had a great season this year," he said of the Breakers, who finished runner-up to the Division 4 crown to defending-champion Viewpoint. "We had high aspirations coming into the season and we were able to live up to our expectations by making it to the CIF championship."

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Michaels' three-year varsity tennis career at Laguna included a recovery from a foot injury his junior year. This year, the 19-year-old had a foot up on most of his competition and stepped forward as a team leader.

"He was a leader who really wanted to keep the kids focused and motivated," first-year Laguna boys' tennis Coach Peter Davidson said of Michaels. "He would have liked to have gone out winning a CIF championship, but it didn't work out that way and you can't win them all.

"He's a great athlete who actually has a greater background in soccer than tennis, and he's really shown his athleticism on the court this year. He still has plenty of room to grow as a player. He's got this aggressive game and he goes to the net, which I love."

As a player on the junior circuit, Michaels has 10 tournament championships and eight tournament finalist appearances on his résumé. At Laguna, he was on two Breakers teams that played in a CIF title match and advanced three times to the CIF Individuals tournament.

Laguna also finished runner-up to a CIF title in 2009.

"My confidence and comfort on the court have grown tremendously over the last four years," he said.

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