By Amanda Phillips
CORAL GABLES, Fla. Although she is the smallest player on the University of Miami women's tennis team, freshman Kelsey Laurente plays larger than her 5-foot-3 stature.
"I was always the smallest and the skinniest, but it was never a problem," Laurente said. "I never look at somebody and feel intimidated because of my height."
The freshman has already made a splash in her collegiate tennis career. The ITA ranked her No. 51 in the country earlier this spring, the highest ranking for a Canes singles player so far this year.
Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews sees something special in Laurente and the way she approaches the game.
"She loves being on the tennis court, she loves practicing she finds fun in the sport which you have to have," Yaroshuk-Tews said.
Despite her early success, rankings aren't really something the 18-year old likes to think about.
"I don't really pay attention to ranking at all," Laurente said. "My goals are to be one of the highest ranked, but that comes with hard work and all that."
Laurente, who started competing at the age of 10, grew up around tennis.
"My parents would just play recreational tennis," Laurente said. "I would be the little girl that would be picking up all the balls, running around the court."
Things started to get more serious when her parents took her coaches' advice and placed her in a few tennis camps.
"Each of my coaches said that I had something, that I had talent," Laurente said. "They said that I was quick and that I had a lot of energy."
A successful junior player, Laurente had her choice of colleges to attend. But when she arrived at Miami, Laurente knew it was where she was supposed to be.
"It feels like home," Laurente said. "I feel the most comfortable here and I just wanted to represent Miami."
The freshman has represented well early in her career beating some pretty stiff competition. At the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championships, Laurente beat Stefanie Weinstein of No. 17 Nebraska at the No. 3 singles position to clinch the win for Miami.
Yaroshuk-Tews attributes Laurente's successful play on the court to two key components.
"Her ability to play long points at a high level and be brave is a super strength." Yaroshuk-Tews said. "She's not afraid to pull the trigger when she has an opening, she's not afraid to the take the shot."
In the short time she has been at Miami, the Miramar, Fla., native has really enjoyed playing under coach Yaroshuk-Tews.
"In the beginning, I was so afraid and worried," Laurente said. "I sometimes feel like Paige is our tennis mom. It's an amazing feeling, I don't really know how to describe it."
While her collegiate career is off to a great start, the talented freshman's love for Miami spans further than the tennis courts.
"There are so many things I love about being at UM," says Laurente. "Meeting people just living the life and getting to have all these new experiences."