Liana Korber is now in her third straight year playing at No. 1 singles for the Sage Hill School girls' tennis team.
In a way it makes perfect sense. Korber definitely is her own individual.
She's the one who wears the multicolor shoes while on court, the shoes that are purple, pink and neon yellow with turquoise laces.
"I saw these shoes on a commercial during the French Open, and I ran to the computer," Korber said. "I had to get them. They're just very 'me.' It's almost as if they had consulted me on what colors they should use ... I often clash, but I think it works, because it's me."
Korber also is the one with whom Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria will often joke, because she's always running off to go to some concert. This was again true last weekend, when she went to go see Incubus and Linkin Park at the Home Depot Center.
Longoria, who went to Woodstock in 1969, doesn't really mind the excursions. Still, he sometimes gives Korber a hard time.
"He just always comes up with very obscure band names," Korber said. "It's like, 'Are you going to see the Screeching Females?' [I say], 'No, sorry coach, I don't know who they are.'"
But people know who Korber is on the tennis court. Before she took off for that most recent concert, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week put on a memorable performance.
Korber went 4-0 in singles at the Lightning Invitational, as well as 4-0 in doubles with her co-captains Kimberly Brown and Lauren Hsu. The Lightning finished second to Newport Harbor at the five-team tournament, but it wasn't because of Korber's perfection.
She has worked hard in the off-season with her private coach, former UC Irvine standout Mike Saunders, to improve her game. Longoria has noticed.
"She's very focused," Longoria said. "Probably the strength of her game is her mental toughness. She knew that she needed to improve her serve, she needed to improve her ground strokes, and she needed to improve her net play. She's been working steadily on those things. They're still not where she wants them to be, or her coaches want them to be, but she's making steady progress on that. She made a big leap from last year to this year.
"Last year she was a grinder, she'd get every ball back. She's added a little bit more pace, a little bit more variety and a little bit more consistency with her serve. That's the biggest difference from last year to this year, which is really big, for her and for us."
Korber, a four-year varsity starter, gave up horse riding after her freshman year at Sage to focus on tennis. It has paid off, as she definitely is a key piece for the Lightning. They are ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division 2. When Sage does get to the CIF playoffs each year, eyes turn to Korber.
That's how it has been the last two years, when Longoria's playoff strategy involved sweeping in doubles and having Korber defeat the opponent's No. 3 singles player. Korber came through on that each time, but the Lightning were unable to sweep St. Margaret's in doubles at the CIF championship match at The Claremont Club. Each time, Sage squandered one doubles set and lost on games.
"A lot of the CIF teams have two highly ranked USTA singles players," Korber said. "It's a pretty tough job to have to play those people, but I don't think I've ever lost all three of those matches. I've always managed to pull out that one win. I mean, I know my job, and I know I can do it."
Korber can appreciate Longoria's mathematical approach to his lineups. She has a 4.4 grade-point average and scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of her SAT test. Recently Korber was recognized as a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, one of just 14 kids in the Newport-Mesa area to receive that distinction.
Her course load at Sage is difficult, with classes like Topics in Advanced Mathematics, Multivariable Calculus, AP Economics, AP Physics C, AP English and British Literature. Her parents Tim and Patty both are doctors, but Liana Korber wants to be an engineer.
She has visits lined up to prestigious universities like MIT, Tufts, Caltech and Harvey Mudd. Sage Hill graduate Ava Soleimany recently made the tennis team at MIT.
Liana Korber also wants to play college tennis, like her older brother Shane. Liana said she has a good relationship with Shane, who shined at Corona del Mar High before graduating in 2011 and now plays at Georgetown.
"He's kind of been a model of what I should be doing with my tennis," Liana Korber said. "He's worked so hard for it, and he's truly dedicated his time, even more so than me. He proved to me that if you do work that hard, you can get to the level that you want. I mean, he's playing for Georgetown, and they're D1."