Countdown: Santamaria Heads to USC
by Rhiannon Potkey, 5 November 2010
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If Sabrina Santamaria wants something badly, she pursues it with full intensity.
She doesn't sit back and wait for someone else to make the first move.
The Los Angeles resident took the same approach to her college recruitment.
Santamaria knew the University of Southern California was her top choice, so she emailed head coach Richard Gallien with her playing schedule and past results.
Gallien came to watch Santamaria play a short time later, and eventually offered her a scholarship.
"It was really surreal to me. I never thought this would happen in a million years," Santamaria said. "To have your dream school recruit you - and actually want you - and offer you a scholarship - is pretty amazing."
Santamaria seemed destined to excel in tennis from the start.
Her parents, Ivan and Annie, immigrated to the United States from Panama and the Philippines, respectively.
They both took up tennis once they arrived, and met on a court in L.A. while they were practicing.
"It was kind of inevitable I would play," Santamaria said. "My dad pretty much started me out when I was 4, and I always wanted to go to the park to play with him and watch him. He has been my coach from day one, and I have been blessed it has worked out so well."
Santamaria does not fit the stereotypical image of a highly-ranked junior tennis player.
She has never belonged to a club, and developed her game on public courts.
She has always attended a traditional school and plays on the team at Campbell Hall, where she is also heavily active in Amnesty International.
"I need regular school to help me retain information and stay motivated, and it helps you learn how to interact with people," she said. "Plus, I love representing my community by playing high school tennis and I have a lot of pride for my school."