Perez finishes time at Alabama against Arkansas, Missouri

Perez finishes time at Alabama against Arkansas, Missouri

Luicelena Perez took two years off after high school to focus on tennis before coming to Alabama. UA Athletics

If there’s an Alabama women’s tennis player who can walk right up to someone, give them a great big hug and kiss on the cheek as a greeting, it’s senior Luicelena Perez.

After graduating from high school in Venezuela in 2010, she took two years off to play tennis. Soon, she was looking into playing college tennis for the first time. She only heard about Alabama from current teammate Natalia Maynetto since they knew each other from when Perez lived in Florida.

“I knew that the people in the South were more welcoming, kind of like my culture,” Perez said. “They were more open. So that was a check on my list.”

Perez had never visited the campus before actually enrolling. Also, she did not speak English.

Although the language was her hardest adjustment, there were other things she was not used to. Besides her disappointment that food is not always home-cooked and the weather is unpredictable, she also said her friendships here are different.

“The jokes are different,” she said. “That’s something I had to adjust because sometimes I’d say something inappropriate and I didn’t know it was inappropriate here.”

Her team said it loves that Perez still holds onto her culture though – it’s a part of who she is. Sophomore Danielle Spielmann said Perez makes the team laugh a lot with some of the connections she’ll make and things she says. Perez has no fear with speaking what’s on her mind, Spielmann said.

“She brings a lot of her culture with her, which is very vibrant, emotional and passionate,” coach Jenny Mainz said.

Perez has been the spark plug of the team. It has become another family to her. When she came to Alabama, it was the team who helped her adapt so quickly.

Her love for the game of tennis is contagious, teammates said. This season, Spielmann and Perez played as doubles partners and Spielmann said she has noticed a change in her own game.

“By nature, I’m not much of a loud tennis player,” Spielmann said. “The biggest change that she has made in me is showing positive emotions, which I’ve realized helps me compete so much.”

Mainz believes Perez still has her best tennis in front of her and there’s still so much out there for her. Perez said she is thinking of playing for her country’s Fed Cup team after all is said and done at Alabama.

“She’s a little persnickety,” Mainz said. “When you watch her, you think she’s just carefree, but it’s not like that. She holds herself to a very high standard.”

Although she has more schooling to be done next year, her time playing tennis for Alabama will come to an end after this 2015 season when she finishes out her eligibility. Perez has no doubt that she will still be around everything tennis. She loves her teammates and doesn’t plan on letting go of them, just as they won’t either.

“There is no one on the team like her,” Spielmann said.

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