Oct. 11, 2007
Vucenov Makes Her Way To Maryville From Serbia
Northwest senior tennis player Kristina Vucenov (pronounced Vu-CHE-nov) is competing at the ITA Small College National Championships today in Mobile, Ala. She is one of eight competitors competing in the Division II women's singles event. All eight student-athletes are foreign-born and all hail from a different country.
Vucenov grew up in Novi Sad, Serbia, and started playing tennis when she was 6 years old at a tennis school down the street from her home. Her mother, Radmila, teaches kindergarten while her father, Svetislav, works with electricity.
At the age of 13, Vucenov scored a victory against fellow countrywoman Jelena Jankovic, the third-ranked player in the world today and the top seed at this week's Bangkok Open.
Vucenov came to the United States three years ago and enrolled at Lee Community College in Houston, Texas. She didn't speak English, but had friends in the Dallas area.
She spent two years at Lee before moving to Freed Hardeman University, an NAIA school in Henderson, Tenn. Vucenov enjoyed playing on one of the top teams in the nation and spent quite a bit of time getting to know her team.
"We only had two home matches, so we did a lot of traveling and playing tennis," said Vucenov. "I really enjoyed playing with the team there. It was the best team I've ever had."
FHU discontinued its tennis program the following year, leaving Vucenov to once again look for a new home.
She remembered Northwest coach Mark Rosewell had visited one of her practices in Texas and had informed her about the Bearcat program and an assistant he had in Alen Horvat, a former Bearcat tennis player and a native of Slovenia. Both Slovenia and Serbia were a part of the former Yugoslavia and the languages are quite similar.
Vucenov enrolled at Northwest this past summer and hopes to complete a degree in physical education in the fall of 2008.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to stay in the United States, but I hope to coach tennis when I finish school," said Vucenov.
In the meantime, Vucenov spends time on the internet communicating with friends and family back home. Her next trip to Serbia won't come until December, but she passes the time reading about psychology and trying to learn the rules to American football. She hits balls with junior Daniel Usieto from the Northwest men's team as she practices for nationals.
"It meant a lot to win the regional tournament and to advance to nationals," said Vucenov. "For the past three years I've played in the ITA tournament, but never won. It is just very different to be on top."
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