Since the dawn of her career at the University of Colorado, junior tennis star Nuria Ormeño Ruiz has made great strides with the program she calls home and has become a force that the team can lean on during some of its tougher matches.
Heading into her freshman year, the team atmosphere took a little getting used to for the Barcelona native.
"When I came here, it was the first team experience I've ever had because tennis was like an individual sport, so you don't really experience team chemistry. But, I mean, I really get along with all my teammates, so I think it's great," Ormeño Ruiz said.
From the start, Ormeño Ruiz, fit all the requirements that 17-year head coach Nicole Kenneally had been searching for in a young, eager player just entering the next phase of her tennis career.
"It's an individual sport, so it really comes down to getting players that have been in those experiences of being up and losing and being down and winning, and then also having a track record of success and winning," Kenneally said.
"Nuria definitely fit all those bills and vocalized thoughts of wanting to possibly play professionally afterwards, and to obviously work with and help develop players that have that in mind is always a lot better, because you know that they're goal-driven and committed to what they're wanting to achieve."
Although Ormeño Ruiz, 21, underwent the period of transition that many athletes find going into college competition, she's been a valuable asset for a talented Colorado team nearly from the start as she's taken over the team's No. 2 position in singles behind sophomore Tina Bokhua.
In her first two years with the program, she racked up 38 career singles victories along with 25 doubles wins. In singles, she sat at 42nd while hanging around the Top 50 in program history in doubles victories, and that was only at the halfway point of career. She's also been named the team's Clutch Player of the Year for two years running.
Back in November, Ormeño Ruiz made the CU tennis record books as she became the first singles player in history to be invited to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
Last year alone, Ormeño Ruiz tied for the team-high in overall victories with 18 and held the record for the most wins in the spring season with 14. She recorded a team-best 12 wins at any singles position, which earned her a No. 15 ranking in the Mountain Region.
Heading into the spring season this year, she earned a No. 1 regional ranking after completing the fall season with a 10-2 overall singles record and the title in the Mountain Region singles championship. Five competitions into the spring season, Ormeño Ruiz now sits at 4-1 in singles and 3-2 in doubles.
Coming in, she did not expect to see the level of success that has defined her career early on.
"Not really," Ormeño Ruiz said. "I came as a little freshman not knowing what was going to happen, so yeah, I'm really happy with everything that has happened this past fall and the past two years. I think it's a great success for the team and myself."
Ormeño Ruiz's achievements, Kenneally said, are unparalleled during her long tenure as head coach as CU.
"Most definitely. That's an unequivocal yes," Kenneally said. "She's done a fantastic job. You know, I was actually thinking this morning how right now, like I'm in my 17th year, and I don't think anyone's made as big of a turnaround.
"You know, freshman year is always an adjustment for everyone — some people a little bit more than others — but the adjustment that she's made from her freshman to her junior year is a total 360, and that's great to see. She's doing fantastic in all areas."
During Colorado's competition against Boise State last weekend, Ormeño Ruiz shined as she won her No. 2 singles match and teamed with Bokhua for a victory in No. 1 doubles.
The Buffaloes head to Kansas State on Friday and Kansas on Sunday in the hopes of running away with a couple of victories on their second road trip of the spring season. Ormeño Ruiz is looking forward to the challenge.
"Right now, preseason is tough. We have tough teams coming here and we're going to Kansas and they're pretty good. But I'm especially looking forward to our conference, Pac-12, to start," she said.
Alissa Noe: firstname.lastname@example.org