Seventeen-year-old Olivia Laws has spent the last several years balancing school work with tennis, and it's paying off.
The Newport Beach teen, who attends Capistrano Connections Academy in Aliso Viejo, signed a letter of intent last week for Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., and celebrated a $13,000 athletic scholarship, which will pay nearly half of her college tuition.
"It pretty much reflected all the hard work I did and dedicated to tennis and my studies," Laws told Patch. "It was a moment I will never forget."
Laws attributes much of her success in tennis to her flexible school schedule at Capistrano Connections Academy, a tuition-free, virtual school that enables her to attend class from the backseat of her car via a laptop, in a café or on an airplane on the way to her weekly tournaments. Compared to her competition, Laws was much older when she began playing tennis. She picked up her first racket when she was 13½, and Laws says she has a lot to catch up on.
"Tennis is my main priority and is my biggest goal in life," Laws, who practices about five hours a day, explained. "I don’t have time for a traditional school right now because the competition is always intense. I have to be really serious, and I can't be distracted."
When she isn't studying through Capistrano Connections Academy or traveling to weekend tournaments, Laws still spends time with the friends she made while attending Corona del Mar High School through the beginning of her junior year.
"I kept a lot of my friends from CDM and have more than just my tennis friends," Laws said.
But Laws admits her social life doesn't hold a candle to her passion for tennis.
She already secured a spot on the tennis team at Queens University of Charlotte. She has won four United States Tennis Association tournaments in the single division category, placed as a finalist three times in USTA tournaments, won two doubles champion titles, and she was crowned as the Women’s Finalist in the 10th Annual Queen of Hearts Charity Tournament.
"I knew from the moment I picked up my racket that tennis was my sport," Laws said. " When I am on the court I feel like nothing else exists, it makes me so happy."
Laws will graduate from Capistrano Connections Academy in June then pack her bags for North Carolina.