Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO Tennis Preview: Redhawks ready to soar again

Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Senior Daniela Hlacikova was named 2023 OVC player of the year in 2022. Hlacikova is only the second player in SEMO history to earn the honor.
Photo submitted by SEMO Athletics

The Southeast Missouri State University women’s tennis team is gearing up for the 2024 season with high expectations after their 2023 campaign, where they finished with a 17-3 overall record and a perfect 5-0 mark in Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) action.

Picked first in the OVC preseason poll, the Redhawks are ready to defend their title and make a strong statement.

Under the leadership of head coach Mary Beth Gunn, who is in her ninth year of coaching, the team is focused on daily hard work and continuous improvement, rejecting complacency despite their preseason recognition.

Coach Gunn emphasizes, “We have to put in the hard work every day. Just because we’re preseason-picked first doesn’t mean it’s going to be a reality. We have to make it a reality.”

The team contains a roster of key returning players, including Daniela Hlacikova, the senior powerhouse and reigning OVC Player of the Year, experienced fifth-year players Vivian Lai and Lera Valeeva, and promising sophomore Cosima Trinity Calinescu.

Excitement builds with the addition of four new players.

Graduate transfer Juliette Talieu brings experience from North Alabama.

“She played the “one” for them, so we are really looking forward to bringing her in. She knows what college tennis is. She’s been there, done that. It’s her fifth year playing,” Coach Gunn said.

Freshmen Ewa Czapulak and Maja Bajorek, both from Poland, showcase promising skills.

Coach Gunn noted their smooth transition to the team saying, “Maya and Ewa also had played doubles together in Poland, so that was an added bonus as well.”

Juliette Demunck, a newcomer from France, brings dedication and a strong work ethic to the team.

Demunck is “a really dedicated player to the game and is very motivated in the classroom” according to Coach Gunn.

Senior leader Hlacikova shared her enthusiasm stating, “We are working hard at practices, in the weight room, and during conditioning. So, if we keep it up, I think it’s going to be good. We have a lot of really good new players and I’m excited to see them show it.”

The team faces a challenging schedule, intentionally designed by Coach Gunn to prepare them for the competitive landscape of conference play.

Looking ahead, the standout match is against SIUE, the team SEMO defeated in the finals last year. With this taking place at home, on Saturday, March 23, the Redhawks are rallying for fan support to make it a memorable and impactful match.

As Southeast Missouri State Tennis embarks on the 2024 season, the team aims to build on the success of the previous year.

“We just want to work hard on the court. We have goals to win both the regular season and the OVC championship,” graduate student Lera Valeeva said.