Though Britney Dean considers herself a Georgia peach, the Riverdale, Ga., native is a fierce competitor for the Florida A&M tennis team.
"No matter who she's against, they're the enemy," teammate Vanessa McCall said.
Dean got an early start in tennis at the age of nine, playing for the United States Tennis Association Junior league. Her father introduced her to the sport, though Dean said even without formal training, he was determined to teach her how to play well.
"He encouraged me because he got me into it and made me stick with it," Dean said.
For many young athletes, it may be tough having to put practice over personal life. Dean said putting practice over her personal life made her miss out on spending times with friends and going out, but was worth the rewards in the long run.
"At the time I didn't understand and I didn't like it, but now I appreciate it," Dean said.
Dean took private lessons from Ernie Peterson, a tough yet personable coach according to Dean. Working with him for six years honed her skills and made her a competitive player.
"He made sure I got into college without having to pay," Dean said. "It is grounds for building a well-rounded student athlete."
She attended North Clayton High School in College Park, Ga., Dean made it to state competitions both her freshman and sophomore years, ranking #1 on her team all four years of her high school career.
Coach Peterson passed away April 10, 2010, leaving a legacy of bright student athletes in his path.
Dean accomplished Peterson's goal of not paying for college through tennis and got offered a full scholarship to Florida A&M. Her major is early childhood education.
Adjusting to a collegiate team came easy to Dean. The closeness of the players makes it a more comfortable environment.
"It was a lot easier here because with juniors, all I did was play, play, play. Here we have a little break and leeway," she said.
But there's still a lot of work to be done, especially with 6 a.m. practices.
"The hardest part was waking up for training," Dean said.
For college athletes, early morning practices are a necessity in building discipline as well as strength, Dean said.
Even with a hectic schedule, Dean finds time to be involved in campus organizations. She's actively involved in the Student Athlete Advisement Committee (SAAC), Students of Florida Education Association, National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and Habitat for Humanity.
Dean's teammates also look up to her for leadership and friendship, as she dominates the courts while maintaining her sweet persona.
"She's very sweet, straightforward and speaks her mind. On the court, she's always prepared," McCall said.
Coach Nikki Goldthreate feels that Dean is a great team leader.
"Britney is a captain with great leadership, who's hardworking and gives 110 percent," Goldthreate said. "Having that for the underclassmen makes them want to do the same."