It turns out that the University of Miami had a star born right into its family and didn’t even know about it.
Freshman Melissa Applebaum, who grew up in Coral Gables, has been an instrumental part of the UM women’s tennis team, who currently hold a No. 19 ranking with a record of 13-4. Applebaum has enjoyed Miami’s success, but says the team has bigger goals in mind.
“One of our goals for the rest of the year is to finish strong,” Applebaum said. “Hopefully we will be able to host the NCAA regionals.”
The ‘Canes come off of a weekend in which they faced three schools from the state of Virginia. Miami dropped the first match of the weekend to Virginia Commonwealth, but bounced back to take the next two matches over Richmond and Virginia Tech.
“The trip to Virginia was good and we played tough all weekend even during the loss to VCU,” Applebaum said. “The win against Richmond really gave us confidence to go up against Virginia Tech and from there we steamrolled.”
Applebaum has experienced a winning touch dating back to when she was seven, the age when she first picked up a tennis racket. In high school at Gulliver Prep, Applebaum was the No. 1 ranked high school player in Florida. She also beat a ranked pro at the NASDAQ 100 tournament.
The freshman doesn’t list either one of those feats at the top of her list, however.
“I think the greatest moment so far in my career was when I won the doubles championship at the Easter Bowl last year,” Applebaum said. “I really got to make a name for myself.”
Applebaum, who has been ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation, chose Miami due to a couple of important factors.
“At first I wanted to go away, but when I began traveling and looking at schools, I realized I didn’t want to be in the cold weather,” Applebaum said. “I decided on Miami because of the weather, because I am close to my parents, and also because Paige [Yaroshuk] was the right coach for me.”
Applebaum was offered full rides from a variety of schools all across the country. Georgia, USC, UCLA, Duke, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt are just a few that were after her.
Nearing the completion of her first year on the college level, She says she will never forget her high school tennis days being at the very top in the state of Florida.
“Being No. 1 was a great experience because the team was behind me out there everyday,” Applebaum said.
Applebaum’s favorite player of all time is a household name and one that is a favorite among many tennis fans.
“I love Steffi Graf,” Applebaum said. “I mean who wouldn’t like her with that forehand of hers!”
Applebaum, who is leaning towards a major in communications, hopes to one-day walk in Steffi’s shoes, but after she attains her degree.
“My college education is very important to me,” Applebaum said. “Hopefully one day down the road I will be able to go pro.”
The Hurricanes return to Virginia this weekend to face Old Dominion University. Like most weeks, Applebaum has a strong opponent awaiting her.
“ODU is a team with a strong No.1, so it will be a test for me,” Applebaum said. “But I think the team is ready and we feel strong about the match.”
Doug Kroll can be reached at Dstorm13@aol.com.