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Battling Injuries on Her Way to the Top

Laguna Beach High’s Kira Hamilton overcame a season of injuries to capture the Orange Coast League individual championship Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Costa Mesa Tennis Center.

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Laguna Beach High’s Kira Hamilton. Photo by Robert Campbell

Laguna’s top singles player was named OC Varsity player of the week after compiling a 44-4 tournament record in seven sets over four matches, beating second place Ashley Shelton 6-1, 6-2 in an all-Breaker final.  “It’s kind of stressful in a way, but it’s kind of fun,” said Hamilton of facing her teammate for the title.

Hamilton grew up in a tennis family. Her mother and father are recreational players, and her brother Teague (’13) is a former two-time league MVP for the Breakers and a current member of UC Santa Barbara’s tennis team.

Hamilton credits her court time with Teague for helping develop her game. “I got to hit with a stronger person, and that made me better in the long run,” she said.

She began playing as soon as she could pick up a racket, spending much of pre-teen years under the guidance of Laguna Beach Community Services instructor Garry Glaub. “He kind of paved the way,” said Hamilton, who volunteered last summer to help Glaub teach the next generation of young tennis hopefuls.

She began to take the game more seriously at 8, when she started working with a personal coach and playing in Southern California Tennis Association junior tournaments. By the time she was 12, she was already thinking about playing for her hometown team. She even began working out with the some of the high school girls while still in eighth grade.

Hamilton joined the Breakers the same year current coach Don Davis took over the girls program. “It’s exciting having someone that good when they’re a freshman,” he said, “because you know they’re only going to get better, and you’re going to have them for four years.”

Davis juggled his lineup that year, eventually pairing Hamilton with then-sophomore Brooke Michaels to form Laguna’s top doubles team. The duo went on to win the 2011 OCL league title, beating teammates and ’13 graduates Chloe Mansour and Katelyn Bo 6-1, 6-2.

Hamilton and Michaels followed up their league title with a three-set sweep of Northwood in the first round of CIF division one playoffs that season. “I thought [Hamilton] did quite well, considering she was a freshman,” said Davis.

The following year, Davis split the defending league champion doubles team of Michaels and Hamilton into singles players for the Breakers, who had been moved down to division two.

After losing a close match to Bailey Jaeger in league semifinals last season, Hamilton rebounded to lead Laguna on an amazing CIF run that ended in a 5-13 semifinal loss to Arcadia High School. Hamilton finished with a 5-4 match record in three rounds of post-season play to lead all Breaker singles players in scoring.

Hamilton earned the top spot this year in pre-season tryouts, but a case of bursitis in her shoulder knocked her off the top of her game in the early going. Even so, she still put up a 4-4 record in Laguna’s first three matches against division one opponents. The shoulder would continue to bother her off and on into league finals.  “It’s doable,” she said of the pain she has endured all year.

In addition to her shoulder woes, Hamilton strained her Achilles tendon during Laguna’s fifth match against Corona del Mar. The newly crowned No. 1 would miss the next two weeks, including the league opener against Saddleback.  “You know there is a little pressure in being number one,” said Davis. “You know your team is relying on you to win two or three matches [every week].”

It took some time to get her stroke back, but through it all, she handled the pressure just fine, putting up an impressive 13-3 match record down the stretch, including 7-0 in league play.

Hamilton is a tough competitor by nature, but having to overcome all the adversity this season has made her even tougher. “She’s gotten a lot stronger mentally,” Davis said.

A member of Laguna’s surf team, Hamilton’s fierce determination and focus on the court is offset by her laid back “surfer girl” attitude when she’s in the water, according to Davis. “I really love surfing,” said Hamilton. “It kind of gives me energy before school.”

She has given some of that energy back as a volunteer, helping Surfers Healing raise funds for autistic kids.

The Breakers played their first round of CIF match at home Wednesday, Nov. 6, against the winner of a wild card match between Fullerton and Placentia’s El Dorado High Schools. With Hamilton healthy and firing on all cylinders, the CIF third-ranked Breakers have a good shot to go deep again this year.

“We definitely need her for CIF,” said Davis. “Kira’s got an unbelievably good serve, and she’s got a great forehand. When she’s on, you know, she’s a very formidable player.”

This year’s Orange Coast League champ Kira Hamilton delivers a forehand during her finals match against teammate Ashley Shelton.

 

 

 

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