By Amanda Phillips
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – As a little girl growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia, junior Melissa Bolivar remembers watching her father play tennis.
“My dad used to play doubles with his friends on the weekends, and I used to be the ball girl,” Bolivar said. “Then he put me in lessons and I just started liking it.”
While in school at the British International College in Colombia, Bolivar was kept busy by her extracurricular activities.
“In high school, I played soccer, softball, basketball and volleyball. I mean, I was playing every sport,” Bolivar said. “Tennis was the sport I did the most throughout the week and the one I liked the most.”
Before making a final decision where she wanted to attend school and play tennis, the junior visited four schools before the University of Miami showed interest.
“Miami was the school that showed up at the end and I came for a really short visit because the girls had a tournament,” Bolivar said. “I was here for like a half a day. Then after I went through all my visits I came back and that’s when they offered the scholarship. Miami was my first choice when they showed up. “
The Colombian liked everything that the University of Miami had to offer both on and off the tennis court.
“Miami is a top program and a top school,” Bolivar said. “It was the better option both with tennis and academically. I felt when I came to visit the girls they were very nice. Paige and Jeff, who was the assistant coach at that point, was also very nice and very welcoming.”
Being a veteran on an otherwise young team, Bolivar has taken on a leadership role that she embraces.
“Being here for two years now with Brittany, we know how the program is, what we’re known for, how we compete,” Bolivar said. “We have to transmit that to the other girls. Every time they need something they look for us, they ask. Brittany and I may have the better answers sometimes due to our experience here.”
Bolivar has had some great experiences of her own while playing under head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews.
Her junior season resume includes big wins against Tessa Lyons of top-ranked North Carolina and Christy Spies of 35th-ranked NC State.
The veteran athlete truly enjoys playing for the Yaroshuk-Tews.
“I love being here and playing for her,” Bolivar said. “I think this program has made me so much better. I’ve played my best tennis here. Paige got to know me really quickly and has been on top of me since I got here.”
Bolivar admits that her favorite thing about being at the University of Miami is the community of people she has around her.
“We have amazing people on our team and in the program,” Bolivar said. “Everyone that surrounds us is great. The people are always willing to help us and make us better.”