The Miami Hurricanes have been fortunate to have one FIU transfer on their side of the court for the last two seasons.
Junior Mari Toro, who enters this weekend as the nation’s No. 94 ranked player in singles, brings Miami more than just sheer talent. Toro relies on an admirable work ethic and an intense desire to win.
“I think I have a very strong work ethic,” Toro said. “I think I lead the team to work harder because I’m always giving 100 percent no matter what. At times you’re tired. You’ve got to give it that extra push.”
The Hurricanes play has improved as well this season, as the squad carries a No. 21 ranking. That number, however, isn’t good enough for Toro.
“I want to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Toro said. “I want to be top 15 or even a top 10 in the nation.”
Much of the team’s success can be attributed to Toro’s ability to win with younger double’s partners. Toro has been victorious with sophomores Staci Stevens and Megan Bradley. Toro experienced real success teaming up with Stevens, as the pair recorded victories against Illinois, Texas, and Harvard.
“I can motivate (Stevens) more so than anyone else on the team,” Toro said. “I can push her to work harder, to be out there a little longer. It just worked.”
When teamed up with Bradley, Toro has won both of her doubles matches. The junior feels that there is less of an adjustment to be made while playing with Bradley.
“It wasn’t difficult to adjust,” Toro said. “With Megan, we both do our own thing, we’re both very focused and we have a lot of discipline. You have to just adjust to the personalities.”
Perhaps the biggest improvement Toro has been forced to make is in leading the team on and off the courts. Since the ‘Canes only feature one senior on their roster, Toro has accepted the role of the veteran and has helped guide the less experienced players. With Toro’s help, freshman Melissa Applebaum soared up to No. 77 in the national rankings.
“I’ve taken a good role with Melissa,” Toro said. “I’ve kind of helped her a little bit. It’s nice having that chance to actually give back because when I was a freshman, when I was at FIU, I kind of had it rough.
“There was no one looking out for me and that’s the type of role I try to play.”
As the season progresses, the goal is clear for Toro, and she remains confident that the team can meet the high standards she expects.
“I’m not even worried about the rankings, just to do well, just to play within myself and take one match at a time. If I do that, things will happen.
“Everyone’s confidence is pretty high right now. We want to maintain that. We have some good opportunities. We feel good right now, and we want to continue to feel good.”
Adam Aizer can be reached at Aizersgotflava@hotmail.com