A winning attitude

She turned down a full scholarship for dance to Dixie State University.

She chose to leave the familiar cold of Utah for the distant and foreign Los Angeles.

Pursuing a passion, Carmel Peterson is finishing up her freshman year at Santa Monica College, and has emerged as a force on the tennis court.

"I heard about coach Richard," said Peterson of the SMC tennis head coach Richard Goldenson. "He's very motivating and his team has won the state championship. He wanted to get to know my playing style. He asked me to take his tennis class so I took it last fall."

Peterson arrived in LA back in July and it has been a positive experience for her.

"I never liked the snow," said Peterson.

Peterson first took up tennis at the age of 11, after initially being interested in ballet.

"My dad used to play and he really enjoyed it," said Peterson. "I thought I'd try it since no one else in the family wanted to."

Even at a young age, Peterson had a fierce competitive spirit.

"At that time, I wanted to win, like most kids that age," said Peterson. "I wanted to shine and show them who is best. I wanted to impress others."

After her first tennis victory, there was no stopping her.

"I remember my first win of the match," Peterson said. "I was looking into the eye of the tiger. It was so relieving and so motivating at the same time. I thought no one could stop me. I was excited and wanted to play more."

Her talents did not go unnoticed, and by the age of 16, Peterson was ranked sixth overall in the Intermountain Region of the United States Tennis Association.

Goldenson has been very impressed with her dedication to the sport.

"Carmel is a fierce competitor, and very motivated," said Goldenson. "She's got it all inside. She won't quit, and she runs down every single ball. If she loses a point it's never because of lack of effort, it's because her opponent outplayed her. She never loses the point for not trying."

Peterson is constantly looking to improve, especially after losing a match.

"As a teammate, you want to look at someone on the same team and see them giving everything they have," said Goldenson. "When she loses, she comes to me and wants to know how to turn that around, what she can do."

Peterson gave her mother credit for being a strong influence in terms of putting the required work to succeed.

"When I was young, my mom would make me run a mile every day, even when I didn't want to," said Peterson.

Aside from being a standout talent, Peterson has developed into a strong team leader.

"I really appreciate that she takes her time with someone who is inexperienced like me," said teammate Elin Hedberg. "She gives invaluable advice."

"She's very supportive," said teammate Juliana Nelkin, "She loses a match, and she'll still come to yours and cheer for you."

"The minute I saw her working out with the other girls, her attitude was so positive," said assistant coach Michael O'hara. "The drills, running back and forth, she gives it everything she's got."

As a freshman, Peterson still has another year of eligibility left, much to the delight of the coaching staff.

"She's got a winning attitude; that's what she's got," O'hara said.