Syracuse’s Newborn credits emotion on court for assisting in 5-0 start to season

first_imgA.J. James stood across the court from a 12-year-old Rhiann Newborn and let loose a booming, “Come on!”Her coach had just crushed a ball past Newborn, and he yelled to encourage Newborn to yell after she won a point.“I used to play her and beat her all the time. I’d yell a lot so, whenever she could get a ‘Come on!’ in, it felt like she was getting the best of me,” James, the AJ Elite Tennis Academy coach, said. “I think that helped her. I want my students — not to celebrate every little thing — but to pump themselves up.”Newborn carried that habit with her to Syracuse, where the sophomore’s shouting makes teammates think of Serena Williams, she said. Newborn is undefeated through five singles matches this season, and credits the success to her energy and vocal nature on the court.Playing in high-pressure situations in professional tennis tournaments and competing with friends in the video game Mortal Kombat has prepped her well to bring a competitive, high-energy style to SU.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“That’s what I trained her on,” Newborn’s father, Darryl Newborn, said. “If you don’t want to get after it, stay home.”When Newborn was young, her neighbor, Olivia Garza, would play her every day in Mortal Kombat, on Newborn’s PlayStation 1. Newborn used Kitana most often, a character noted for the steel blades in her hand fans. Hurling the damage-inflicting fans at her opponent from across the arena was her favorite move.The girls struggled to establish dominance through 20-50 rounds per day.“We’d just keep playing,” Garza said. “Until one of us was satisfied with winning.”If Newborn’s hunger to win wasn’t fulfilled, she usually challenged her father to the game at home. And when her father — a former cornerback at the University of Texas El Paso — taught her other sports, he did so in the only way he knew how.“Passion and aggression,” Darryl Newborn said.When she was 4, her parents brought her to local tennis courts where they competed with hergrandparents. Newborn would storm the court and steal one of the rackets.Nearly two years later, she interrupted yet another match, announcing once again she wanted to play. But she didn’t have a racket. Armed with only a stick she had picked up nearby, Newborn demanded a spot on the court.Darryl Newborn knew he had no choice, so he replaced the stick with a racket. He worked with his daughter to craft a tennis style around her personality — competitive, aggressive and loud.“I think yelling intimidates (my opponents), which I like because then they get scared and I can beat them,” Newborn said, laughing. “This is the style I chose to play. I yell extremely loud, it just makes me want to compete harder.”Syracuse head coach Younes Limam first saw Newborn’s fiery style when he was recruiting her to Rice, where he used to coach.Fully-throated, guttural yells were heard above the sound of balls being hit. Parents of opposing players snickered and furrowed their eyebrows. Spectators familiar with Newborn’s work grinned.“She feeds off her energy,” Limam said. “Her presence makes the difference in close matches. It’s a big strength to have.”In the Orange’s home opener, Newborn was facing an opponent she had seen on the Texas junior circuit. Frustrated, she let out a particularly angry snarl.“You know, Rhiann’s always been this way,” the opponent’s mother said from the stands.And teetering on the brink of dropping the set, Newborn pulverized a forehand winner from the baseline past her opponent.Newborn pumped her fist, stiffened and delivered the most deafening howl yet.“Come on!” Comments Published on February 18, 2015 at 12:15 am Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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