Nov. 30, 2010
Oftentimes a newcomer comes along and provides that extra spark to help put his/her team over the top. However, it might be difficult to survey the national volleyball landscape and find a transfer who has meant as much to her team as junior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic.
It was a blessing for the Florida State University program to find its budding star last spring, when she decided to leave Tulane of Conference USA and make her way to ACC country. With genuine interest from the FSU coaching staff, Djurdjevic was convinced that she found the right place. But what made the decision easiest for the Zitiste, Serbia, native was FSU’s interest in not only her but her best friend and teammate Marija Milosavljevic.
“Whenever I decided to transfer to Tulane, she came to Tulane because of me, and it made life easier for her to adjust to,” Djurdjevic said of Milosavljevic. “When I decided to transfer, she wanted to transfer as well. We wanted to find a school that would accept both of us, and if that didn’t work we would just go separate. Whenever we talked to schools we’d first ask, `Do you want us both?’ and if they didn’t then we would just consider it. The great thing with FSU was that they didn’t really offer me first, they just wanted us both.”
The two Serbs have brought plenty of talent to Tallahassee, with Djurdjevic owning Co-Conference USA Player of the Year honors and Milosavljevic earning Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors. But wherever Djurdjevic looked, she wanted to be cautious about making the right decision, which culminated with a late choice to join the Seminoles.
“I decided to transfer kind of late because it was out of spring semester when I started looking at other schools,” Djurdjevic added. “The major thing I wanted to change was that I wanted to play with a better team. I had a lot of schools talking to me and saying their program was the best, which is what they’re supposed to say. I took my time to make this decision, because I’m not planning on transferring again. I tried to be positive about this decision. That’s why I made this decision so late. This is the right program for me. I liked the campus and the school, I knew the team before was great. I thought it would be the perfect fit for me, especially because they said they could bring me and my best friend.”
Djurdjevic has become one of the best all-around players not only at FSU, but in the ACC. She leads the Seminoles in kills, service aces and points by a long shot, and is second on the team in digs. Entering the weekend against Maryland and Boston College, she is one of just four players in the conference to sit in the Top 5 in kills, service aces and points.
“I was expecting to play and said to myself that I’d do my best and see where that takes me,” Djurdjevic said of her initial self-expectations. “The only thing I had on my mind was that I was coming here to improve my volleyball skills, and if I was going to play and be one of the better players then that would be even better for me.”
Part of what makes volleyball so enjoyable at FSU, according to Djurdjevic, is not only the competition and camaraderie, but the notability one gets as a student-athlete.
“I would say practices are different – they are more competitive here,” she said. “Sometimes we say the practices are even harder than the games, because you have to stay on top of every drill. That is a positive thing, it is harder but it makes you improve. The campus is much bigger here than at Tulane. I feel here the people on campus, like random students, know more about their athletes and their sports. I like that.”
There is no doubt that Djurdjevic’s own competitiveness displayed in practices and matches makes her a well-known student-athlete on campus. Her calm and selfless demeanor has rubbed off well on her teammates, who dearly missed her when she was forced to miss matches against Wake Forest and Duke in late October following the sudden passing of her father. The Seminoles responded in that sequence with a deflating loss to the Demon Deacons on Oct. 22, but pulled off an uplifting performance by defeating Duke on Oct. 24 after being down two sets.
Being from Serbia, Djurdjevic has learned to love American music and is adjusting to the food. But with that, she misses the intimacy of taking time to eat her meals in Serbia, where in the U.S. everything is usually on the go.
“Back home you eat cooked meals, especially for lunch,” Djurdjevic said. “Here in the season, you just don’t have time for cooking. But back home, everything is much closer where you can go home and eat lunch and go back to the things you have to do. That’s different, but I’m trying to adjust.”
Although she attended school and trained just like here, Djurdjevic emphasizes that the Serbian culture is much more laid back compared to America.
“It’s different because back at home you have much more free time,” she added. “It wasn’t that case for me because I had to go to school and practice just like here. There you have more time to hang out with your friends. People find more free time, but at the same time you sometimes get bored because there aren’t a lot of things around that you can go to. That’s the way of life in Europe in general, it’s different than here. Here, if you work hard you can create more opportunities for yourself. Back home, your hard work doesn’t always pay you back.”
Djurdjevic continues to create chances for herself and her teammates with each and every match. Her ability to do so many different things on the court has been a joy for many to watch, and it will be her play down the stretch that will determine how far FSU can go in the Big Dance.