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TENNIS : Freshman Marrow adapts to college game, finds niche in No. 6 position

first_imgWhen her father was laid off from his engineering job, Aleah Marrow’s parents were left with minimal money to send their daughters back to private school. Marrow’s mother, Anna, turned to the idea of homeschooling as a way to balance her daughter’s difficult travel tennis schedule with academics.Marrow traveled an hour and a half each way to practice with her coach in Fayetteville, N.C., during the week. In addition, there were lengthy trips to tournaments on the weekends. Keeping that balance was difficult.But Marrow loved the chance to spend a majority of her time on the tennis court.‘I’ve always wanted to play professional tennis,’ Marrow said. ‘I still do and I still think I can do it and become a really great champion one day. I always felt that in my heart I had a dream and a goal, so I set out to do what I had to do to put in work at a young age.’Marrow has emerged as the anchor of Syracuse’s singles lineup at the No. 6 position this year. The transition from being homeschooled and practicing with her sister to playing at a Division I program was a unique and challenging experience, but Marrow has finally found her niche on the tennis court as she reaches the conclusion of her first year.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith an astounding work ethic and a long journey onto the courts at the Drumlins Tennis Center, Marrow has become one of SU’s most consistent threats. She has won 24 total matches in her freshman campaign and has currently won six consecutive singles matches.Marrow was coached by her sister Amanda for three years of high school, at a court down the road from their house. The sisters would wake up and practice for three hours, take a break and practice three more hours in the evening.But Marrow never wanted to stop. The sisters trained six times a week, and even on their day off Marrow wanted to hit the ball for at least an hour.Once, Amanda walked off the court, marking the end of practice for the day. But Marrow was so mad at the abrupt ending that she threw her racket to the ground. It was the only time her mother had ever seen Marrow throw her racket.‘Aleah is very hard working,’ Amanda said. ‘There were times when I wouldn’t want to practice and Aleah would. Aleah would want to stay out there all day long, and I would want to go home.’The transition from minimal professional training to Syracuse head coach Luke Jensen’s demanding and structured practice environment was a challenge for Marrow. She was used to practicing when she wanted, performing the drills she wanted and receiving limited coaching in game action.Anna believed her daughter would have rather played professional tennis than go to college. But after seeing Jensen and Syracuse compete, the opportunity to get a degree and further learn under Jensen was more enticing.‘I think that she would have forgone college to play tennis,’ Anna said. ‘She met Coach Jensen a few years ago, and it started to sound appealing to what college could offer her.’Marrow’s extreme self-confidence makes her a viable threat in the Orange lineup. The velocity on her serve is dangerous, but Jensen said there are still some gaps within her game that need to be filled. There are times Marrow looks to force certain shots during improper moments of games, but if she is able to hone in on certain skills, she could be as dynamic as any player Jensen has ever coached.‘She has to get more consistent,’ Jensen said. ‘She’s got big weapons and sometimes they hit the mark, and other times they hit the fence, the coaching staff or her partner. That’s youth. Crazy, wild and uncontrolled youth.’Jensen began recruiting Marrow three years before she completed high school. Marrow aspired to become a professional tennis player. She was the No. 1 ranked player in North Carolina in the 18-year-old division at the age of 15.Now those talents Jensen saw years ago are coming to fruition in Marrow’s first season with the Orange.‘I think she’s the most gifted player we’ve ever had here, in all aspects,’ Jensen said. ‘She’s the complete athlete. She’s bigger, faster and stronger than anyone we’ve ever had. She’s never had traditional tennis training, and she kind of just put it together.‘Her and her older sister were just out there playing without guidance. And she was winning matches, which is phenomenal.’[email protected] Published on April 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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