McNeese's Gawlik, Castellano and Steinberg Receive Top Southland Honors

FRISCO, Texas – For the second straight season, McNeese women's tennis sophomore Klaudia Gawlik has been selected Southland Conference Player of the Year, while teammate Sara Castellano was named Freshman of the year and head coach Danielle Steinberg was recognized as Coach of the Year, announced by the league office on Wednesday.

"I am so happy for Klaudia and Sara on being recognized for their achievements this year," said Steinberg. "Both have been so impressive all year, and so dominate in conference play. They show up to work every day and compete harder than most players I've seen. Having said that, they could not have won these awards without their teammates. The actual award may go to Sara and Klaudia, but it's also belongs to the whole team.

The announcement marks the second straight season that McNeese student-athletes were named player and freshman of the Year.  Gawlik was recognized as both following her undefeated singles campaign as a freshman in 2013.

"Receiving player of the year and freshman of the year honors two years in a row says a lot about our program and how hard we all worked to come this far," explained Steinberg. "This is such a compliment to the girls and a result of hours of hard work on the court and in the gym. They all deserve this."

Gawlik reels in Player of the Year accolades for the second consecutive season after going undefeated in Southland Conference play, compiling a 12-0 singles record.  The sophomore finished with an 18-2 singles record and a 13-6 mark in doubles competition and won two Southland Conference Player of the Week honors this season.  She closed out the regular season with a streak of 15 straight matches won and led the Cowgirls to their best finish in nearly a decade and the No. 3 seed in the SLC Tournament.  Gawlik becomes just the fifth student-athlete to be tabbed Player of the Year twice in her career.

Castellano enjoyed a successful freshman campaign that featured two Southland Conference Player of the Week Awards.  She played the No. 2 position in singles the entire season and posted an 18-3 singles record.  She also posted a 13-6 doubles mark in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.  The freshman finished the season with the second longest win streak in singles play (14) and also finished with a 12-0 mark in SLC play.

In addition to their individual awards, Gawlik and Castellano also earned a spot on the first-team All-SLC singles team as well as on the first-team All-SLC doubles squad as partners. Gawlik was named conference champion in the No. 1 singles spot for her 12-0 mark in league play while Castellano was recognized for the same award in the No. 2 spot for her 12-0 record in conference.

In just her second season at the helm of the McNeese women's tennis program, Steinberg has led the Cowgirls to their best regular season finish in nearly a decade and the Cowgirls' second consecutive Southland Conference tournament appearance. McNeese started the season 3-4, but down the stretch the squad rallied to post a 12-2 mark to finish the year at 15-6 and earn the program's 14th Southland Conference tournament appearance.  At one point in that final stretch run, the Cowgirls won seven consecutive matches to help tally a 10-2 mark in SLC play, which is the first double-digit league mark in program history.  That record also allowed McNeese to earn a three-seed in the conference tournament.

"I am so appreciative for my award, mainly because we have a lot of good coaches in our conference and I have a ton of respect for them," Steinberg said. "Being recognized by my peers is such a great compliment. But again, I would not have gotten this award without my team working so hard all year, buying into what we do, and competing as hard as they did. My assistant coach, Andrew has been amazing all year and this award absolutely belongs to him as well."

In her first season of competition at the Division I level, Julia Kral was named to the second team in singles play after posting a 16-5 record including a 9-3 mark in conference play from the No. 3 spot.  Over her last 10 matches, the native of Teublitz, Germany was 7-3, including three straight wins.  During the season, she went 10 consecutive matches without a loss from Feb. 16 through March 29.

Anna Peacock, a native of Bristol, England, was named Southland Conference champion in the No. 6 singles spot.  The sophomore finished league play with a 9-1, with four-straight victories to finish the season.  Peacock was taken to three sets only once during conference play.

The 2014 All-Southland Conference women's tennis teams are comprised of six first-team and six second-team singles members and three first-team and three second-team doubles squads. Teams are chosen by vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors. Recipients are placed on the teams by the number of votes received. Voting panelists are not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

McNeese will be back in action Friday as it travels to Corpus Christi, Texas for the opening round of the SLC Tournament.  The Cowgirls will face Southeastern Louisiana at 2 p.m. with the winner advancing to take on the winner of the A&M-Corpus Christi-Central Arkansas match.

2014 All-Southland Conference Women's Tennis Teams and Individual Awards Individual Awards Player of the Year: Klaudia Gawlik, McNeese State Freshman of the Year: Sara Castellano, McNeese State Newcomer of the Year: Kelsey Williams, Central Arkansas Coach of the Year: Danielle Steinberg, McNeese State

First-Team Singles

Klaudia Gawlik, McNeese State

Sara Castellano, McNeese State

Renee Villarreal, Southeastern Louisiana Micah Hermsdorf, Abilene Christian Nataly Krutova, Northwestern State Judit Vives, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Second-Team Singles

Stephanie Barnett, Nicholls

Tatiana Larina, Northwestern State

Soledad Calderon Arroyo, New Orleans

Celia Rodriguez, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Julia Kral, McNeese State Polina Konop, Northwestern State

First-Team Doubles

Polina Konop/Tatiana Larina, Northwestern State Klaudia Gawlik/Sara Castellano, McNeese State Nataly Krutova/Kateryna Piatakova, Northwestern State

Second-Team Doubles

Micah Hermsdorf/Kaysie Hermsdorf, Abilene Christian Malena Gordo/Julia Lorca, Stephen F. Austin Soledad Calderon Arroyo/Marta Sans, New Orleans

Conference Champions

No. 1 Singles: Klaudia Gawlik, McNeese State (12-0) No. 2 Singles: Sara Castellano, McNeese State (12-0) No. 3 Singles: Maider Martin, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-0) No. 4 Singles: Celia Rodriguez, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (8-0) No. 5 Singles:  Sandra Burges, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10-1)

Isla Brock, Nicholls (10-1) No. 6 Singles:  Annabelle Peacock, McNeese State (9-1)

No. 1 Doubles:  Polina Konop/Tatiana Larina, Northwestern State (9-1) No. 2 Doubles:  Natalya Krutova/Kateryna Piatakova, Northwestern State (10-0) No. 3 Doubles:  Isabella Costa/Natalie Petaia, Sam Houston State (5-1)