Mari Toro tears up competition

Mari Toro’s father probably never expected much from his daughter after he introduced her to the game of tennis when she was just six years old. But now at the age of 22 she has by far exceeded his expectations and risen to become one of the top college players in the nation.

The sophomore from Miami grew up playing tennis with her older sister, Tari Ann. It is doubtful they will ever be compared to pro tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams, but the two competed against each other in many tournaments when they were younger.

“She beat me most of the time,” Mari Toro said with a laugh. “Sometimes we’d have to play each other in the finals.”

Toro had no problem playing against her sister, noting that she was always trying to catch up to her playing level.

Not only did Mari Toro enjoy contending against her sister, but she also hoped to be coached by her someday.

After graduating from The College of William and Mary, Tari Ann Toro became the assistant coach for the women’s tennis team at the University of Miami. The same year, Mari entered her freshman year at FIU.

Despite finishing her first season with a 24-8 overall record, Toro was not comfortable playing for the Golden Panthers.

“I wasn’t happy at FIU,” Toro said. “I wasn’t happy with the team and the coach over there.”

Things soon changed for Toro, as her wish of having her sister as her coach came true when she had the opportunity to transfer to the University of Miami.

“I’ve always wanted to be coached by her,” Toro said. “Simply because she is my sister and she knows me so well.”

Having Tari Ann as a coach was not the only reason why Mari transferred to Miami.

“I knew [Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk] is an excellent coach and Miami is an excellent school,” Toro said. “The tennis program and work ethic is just so much better over here.”

Toro came to the Hurricanes competing for the No. 1 spot against senior Marcy Hora. She earned the spot right away and finished the spring 2002 regular season last Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Notre Dame’s Becky Varnum.

The win improved her record as a sophomore to 22-9 overall – all coming from No. 1 singles.

Even though this is only her first year at the University of Miami, Toro believes she has gained respect from teammates and coaches.

“I know the girls look up to me because I’m a hard worker and I try my best,” Toro said. “But I wouldn’t consider myself the leader of the team, we are all leaders.”

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has recognized Toro’s accomplishments this year. She is currently ranked No. 66 in the nation for singles by the ITA.

This is not the first time Toro has been ranked. Despite only playing one year of scholastic tennis in high school, Toro went undefeated in singles play. She was ranked in the top five in Florida for girls 18 and under and was also named to the All-Dade County tennis team while competing in No. 2 singles. Toro also played volleyball and softball in high school.

The women’s tennis team will hold a week of practice before they host the Big East championships from April 19-21.

Toro is confident the Hurricanes will bring home a Big East championship. She hopes that the team will finish the season in the nation’s top 15.

“After [the BIG EAST tournament] comes regionals, which is pretty tough,” Mari said. “But anything can happen.”