Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, a dozen years into her tenure as the winningest womens tennis coach in Miami Hurricanes history, said this seasons freshman class is the programs best ever.
Thats saying something because the Canes have reached the NCAA Tournaments Elite Eight in six of the past seven years and have been ranked among the nations top 20 every week since 2004.
The Canes (6-2), with four freshmen among their eight players, are currently ranked 12th in the nation and have already been tested by four schools that were in the top 25 at the time they played, including No. 2 UCLA. The Canes split with those four teams and gave the Bruins a challenge before falling, 4-2.
Heres a closer look at the Canes fresh four:
Kelsey Laurente is ranked No. 52 in the country, the highest ranking of all Canes players. Laurente, a Miramar native who earned her high school online so she could travel to play in tennis tournaments, is also the shortest UM player at 5-3.
Kelsey is the fastest kid Ive ever coached, Yaroshuk-Tews said. She could play for hours. Shes smart and crafty yet powerful.
Laurente said her ranking is an honor.
But thats not where my mind is at, she said. I just want to remain humble. I love to be on the court. If I could stay on the court all day, I would.
Clementina Riobueno, a native of Venezuela, is ranked No. 104 nationally and that could rise because she is 8-0 so far this season.
She grew up playing on clay courts and has incredible hands, Yaroshuk-Tews said. She has a big serve, a huge forehand, and she can finish at the net.
The coach said Riobueno also has the biggest personality among the freshmen.
Every time I look over, the kid is dancing and joking, the coach said. Shes a ball of fire.
Added Riobueno: Im like that happy.
Stephanie Wagner is ranked No. 42 in the nation as a doubles player, combining with UM sophomore Lina Lileikite. Wagner is from Germany, and there is a pretty decent precedent for a tennis player named Steffi coming out of that country (Graf).
Wagner probably hits the ball harder on a consistent basis than any kid Ive ever coached, Yaroshuk-Tews said. Shes a tough cookie. She hates to lose at anything, whether its an argument or a tennis match.
The Canes previously had great success with a recruit from Germany = former All-American Bianca Eichkorn, who in 2011 set the UM career record with 133 singles wins.
Now they have Wagner and her power game. My game is to make the opponent run, Wagner said.
Deborah Suarez, who is from Weston, also did her high school courses online. Her mother was a top juniors player in Venezuela, and her aunt was No. 1 in the nation among 18-under.
Suarez, meanwhile, is off to an 8-1 start at Miami.
In addition to the four freshmen, the Canes have another first-year college player in Monique Albuquerque. The sophomore from Brazil may be the best player on the team even though she has yet to win a college match.
Albuquerque arrived on campus in the fall of 2011 but had to sit out last season and part of this year due to NCAA eligibility issues. She has practiced for the past year but hasnt competed in many tournaments in the past 18 months, and the rust has showed.