Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 | 11 p.m.
To become competitive with the best youth tennis players in the country, Henderson native Chrissy Uriarte knew she had to immerse herself in the sport.
Uriarte, 15, realized the next step in her career required a move to Southern California.
She gave up her life in Henderson, and her sophomore year at Coronado, to train at Advantage Tennis Academy, a tennis-focused boarding school in Irvine, Calif.
"You do miss home, but I have gotten a lot better," Uriarte said. "The players are better and the coaches are better, so I have improved. I wanted to be somewhere where I would be surrounded by tennis."
Uriarte's days typically run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — four hours of school, four hours of tennis and a few breaks thrown in.
The extra time on the court has done wonders for her game, academy coach Mitch Bridge said.
Uriarte's overhead shot and serve have gotten stronger, so much so that she is now defeating older girls. She demonstrated her improvement at the Snowball Intermountain Sectional Tournament Jan. 16 to 21 in Salt Lake City, where she placed sixth in the 18 and younger girls division.
"She is a little undersized, but she makes up for it with her power," Bridge said. "If Chrissy keeps going like she is, she will make some damage at the next level."
Just when Uriarte's time at the academy was going smoothly, she hit a snag by contracting mononucleosis. The virus, which often subjects victims to fever, sore throat and fatigue, severely affected her play throughout the end of 2008.
"It was a real tough time," Uriarte said. "I just wanted to sleep all day, but I fought through it. They worked my schedule around it, but I wasn't able to hit nearly as much."
If there was a silver lining in the experience, Bridge said, the illness gave her a chance to work on other skills.
"It was really a blessing in some ways," Bridge said. "Since she didn't have the energy she normally has, she was forced to work on her technique. In some ways she may come out of it a better player."
Uriarte sits at No. 9 in the United States Tennis Association's Intermountain Section and is No. 104 in the country.
She is proud of the ranking but knows she is a long way from her ultimate goal of playing professionally.
"I have always wanted to achieve that and I knew that to do it I would have to make a change," Uriarte said. "So that's why I wanted to come here."
Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].