11/14/09 — Warren plans to add another chapter to family history at UNCW

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Warren plans to add another chapter to family history at UNCW

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 14, 2009 11:05 PM

Toe shoes to sneakers.

Warm-up bar to racquet.

A tutu for a skirt.

An aspiring dancer during her early teen years, Emily Warren gave all that up to play a sport that's become her passion -- tennis.

Alan Cuddington started her on the journey.

Personal trainer William Howard encouraged Warren to chase her dreams during early-morning workouts.

Kevin Coghill and Mark Trail have provided countless hours of coaching that Warren has applied on the United States Tennis Association junior circuit since she was 121/2 years old.

All those threads that have woven the fabric of Warren's life came together this week. The Spring Creek High School senior announced she will continue her career at perennial Division I power UNC Wilmington next fall. She'll be joined by fellow freshman and Ontario native Angela Sekely.

Warren is the first Wayne County female recruited by a Division I program since Carlin Cannon Hall signed with UNC Greensboro 10 years ago. Warren, the daughter of Reed and Cheryl Warren, courted offers from George Mason and Georgetown before selecting UNCW.

"This was a dream that I wanted to happen since I was in the ninth grade," said Warren, who was ranked among the state's top-15 female players in the 18-Under group after 2008.

"I set out to do it and finally achieved it."

Warren continues a family history at the school by the sea.

In 1947, her grandfather Gene Warren and her great uncle, the late James Warren, served on UNCW's first student council. They chose the school colors and the name "Seahawks" for the athletics teams.

Older siblings Sarah and Stephen currently attend UNCW.

"I just love the whole atmosphere of Wilmington," said Emily. "The main thing I love is Coach (Jenny) Garrity and her team. I've been watching them all throughout high school. I like how she interacts with the team.

"The girls are like a family and they all get along."

Plus, the Seahawks are a team which is something Warren hasn't experienced during USTA play. Warren did have a doubles partner, Lauren Frazier, to travel with her to tournaments, but she missed the team environment.

Warren considered playing at Spring Creek, but upon the advice of coaches and trainers, she understood stronger, individual competition would do nothing but improve her game. Although the demanding, rigorous schedule sliced into social activities and required long hours on the road, Warren has compiled a 4.5 grade-point average in the classroom.

"All serious tennis players who grow up in eastern North Carolina have adversity," said Coghill, who played tennis at Mount Olive College. "There are only a few teaching professionals and few serious players who travel, and play USTA tournaments. There are less places for her to go and drill on her level.

"It's really tough for people around here to get the match play and experience that's needed to make it to the next level. It takes a lot of dedication and she's pushed herself, too."

And pushed through some injuries.

Nagging wrist tendonitis flairs up on occasion and Warren vetoed surgery to help alleviate pain. She was taking cortisone shots, but realized that time off from playing helped the injury to heal on its own.

Warren has also recovered from a groin pull.

She's finally healthy again and anxious to play.

A solid baseline player with consistent groundstrokes, Warren has improved her serve and excels at the net in doubles play. All those abilities helped land a spot on the Seahawks' team.

Garrity also saw potential and dedication from Warren.

"I'll get match play every single day and that will help my game get a lot better," said Warren. "I think I will only improve (over time). They have a really good program at Wilmington and I just couldn't see myself playing anywhere else."

Then again, who could?