The Valparaiso University women’s tennis program has announced the additions of Jelena Vujanic (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / Elk Grove) and Claire Czerwonka (Saint Joseph Catholic Academy / Kenosha Wis.) for the 2017-18 season. Both are four-star recruits, according to tennisrecruiting.net, and have signed their National Letters of Intent to play for the Crusaders.
Czerwonka is ranked third in the state of Wisconsin, 19th in the Great Lakes Region and 183rd nationally. Head coach Tammy Cecchini started recruiting Czerwonka two years ago and has watched her progress from a three-star recruit into a four-star.
“She slides all over the court,” Cecchini said. “She has a passion for tennis. She works really hard and is excited about playing for Valpo. She’s a very good player and she just wants to play all the time.”
During her prep tenure at Saint Joseph Catholic Academy, Czerwonka became a dominant force in Wisconsin Division 2 girls tennis. She was a three-time state champion from 2014-16, compiling an 89-2 record during those seasons. She went 30-0 as a senior and didn’t drop a set all year to finish her four-year high school career with a 115-8 mark.
The decision to attend Valpo concluded a long process for Czerwonka.
“There were a lot of factors that went into my college decision,” she said. “What factored the most is the team and the coach. I look forward to being part of that amazing team and the atmosphere there. Jelena and I are both competitive, so hopefully we can help Valpo win a conference championship.”
Vujanic, who received first-team all-state singles accolades this season, is ranked eighth in the state of Illinois, 18th in the Great Lakes Region and 171st nationally by tennisrecruiting.net. She brings an impressive resume to Valpo that includes an appearance in the state quarterfinals this season. She knocked off a five-star player in the state tournament and made it further than any other player in her school’s history.
“When she visited, I knew I was going to offer her on the spot,” Cecchini said. “I could see the tears welling up in her eyes and her parents’ eyes. We were all crying.”
The moment is one that will be forever etched in Vujanic’s mind.
“It was really emotional and exciting,” she said. “All of my hard work paid off. I’m going to a great school with a great coach and great teammates. It’s amazing; I’m so excited.”
Vujanic will become the only left-handed player on Valpo’s roster. She is a member of her school’s National Honor Society and received a Scholastic Achievement Award. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering for various nonprofit organizations.
“My goal is always to find the best player athletically and academically, and someone who is a good person,” Cecchini said. “I always want to find the Valpo player. I have two girls coming to Valpo that are not only very good tennis players, but they’re great people.”