Nuria Ormeno Ruiz was a busy 3-year-old.

Growing up in Madrid, Spain, Ruiz was already involved with dance classes and swimming lessons at that young age.

Every day, however, Ruiz's mother, Yolanda, would park next to the tennis courts when dropping off her daughter at school. Ruiz was fascinated as she watched other girls playing tennis.

"One day told my mom, 'I just want to play tennis,'" Ruiz said.

Nearly 20 years later, Ruiz is still playing and nearing the end of her career with the Colorado Buffaloes.

On Sunday, Ruiz will play in her final home match as CU hosts Oregon at the Buffs' south tennis complex. Later this month, the Buffs will visit Utah and take part in the Pac-12 championships. Next month, Ruiz will graduate and return home to Spain this summer.

"It's a mix of feelings," Ruiz said. "I'm very excited to play these last few matches and obviously I'm going to miss playing tennis on a team for CU. It's been a great journey. I couldn't ask for a better team or a better place to be for my four years of college. I'm just very happy I came here."

Getting here was quite a journey in itself.

After participating in dance, swimming and tennis at a young age, Ruiz eventually turned her full attention to tennis. The more involved she got, the better she became.

Eventually, Ruiz and her parents moved to Barcelona, nearly 400 miles away on the east coast of Spain, so she could attend the Emilio Sanchez International School and play a higher level of tennis.


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Ruiz vaulted to top the five of Spain's under-16 and under-18 rankings, and was ranked 34th among all women in Spain.

The cost to play that level of tennis was becoming a burden, however, and Ruiz started looking at other options.

"We looked into coming to the U.S. and it was a great opportunity," she said. "I could keep studying and playing tennis."

An advisor pointed her in the direction of CU, but Ruiz's first response was, "I don't even know where Colorado is. I couldn't even place it on a map."

Then, she saw pictures of Boulder and the CU campus.

"I was like, 'Wow, this doesn't even look real,'" she said. "When I came here for a visit, I loved it."

Still new to speaking English — she didn't learn it until moving to Barcelona — Ruiz was nervous about using the language when she arrived here, but built an instant connection with CU football player Diego Gonzalez, a native of Mexico who also arrived on campus in the fall of 2013.

"Since that day we've been friends," Ruiz said. "It's nice having somebody that you can speak your own language with."

While English may have been a challenge at first, tennis put Ruiz in her comfort zone, and she has thrived at CU.

Ruiz enters the final stretch of her career ranked ninth in CU history in singles wins (79) and ninth with 17 wins at No. 1 singles. She's also 18th in doubles wins (57) and 12th in total wins (136).

At 18-13 this year (9-9 in singles play), Ruiz has found a measure of success despite playing in the marquee position in a conference that features six teams ranked among the top 45 in the country.

"It's a very competitive conference," she said. "Any players you're going to play in this conference are good, no matter what position you play in the lineup.

"I think the harder it is, the more entertaining it gets. You get a lot better just playing those players, even though sometimes it doesn't go the way you would like it to be. You learn from those matches."

Ruiz, who is set to graduate with a degree in communications, is thankful for all the lessons she's learned in Boulder — both on and off the court — but is ready to go home to her native food, culture and language.

"I miss home," she said.

Ruiz hopes to take some time off, do some traveling and find a job. And, of course, she'll never be too far from a tennis court.

"I've been playing tennis for so long that I don't think I can just give it up," she said.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.