Oct. 13, 2008
If you haven’t heard of Mira Djuric by now, after today you will not forget it. Djuric is a dynamic and athletic outside hitter on the Florida State women’s volleyball team who made quite an impression last season in her debut as a Seminole. In 2007, Djuric led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 83 service aces and her 0.73 aces per set ranked her fourth in the NCAA. After just one season at FSU, the Belgrade, Serbia, native also topped her squad with 438 kills and 554.5 points. Following such a successful season was an important set of surgeries on her knee and shoulder that would force the senior to take a redshirt season in 2008.
Not having an off-season in 11 years has been a mental challenge for Djuric. “Seeing my teammates fighting and at times struggling has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced since being injured,” Djuric said. The first six months of rehab were the worst for the outside hitter, who was restricted with an arm sling for the two months following her surgery. “I lost a lot of muscle in my arms,” Djuric said. “That forced me to make up for the loss three months later.” Once she was free from the sling, Djuric began tedious workouts that included extensive hours of stretching and weight lifting. An added difficulty was performing each exercise at a much slower pace than Djuric was used to.
“Right now I am at about 50 or 60 %,” Djuric added. “By next year I’m pretty sure I will be back to 100%.” Although it’s tough having to watch her teammates have all the fun on top of spending long hours in the weight room, what the power hitter misses most is her signature jump serve which she has been unable to practice for some time.
“My serve is my trademark. It’s just the thing that keeps me going and it keeps my teammates going,” Djuric said. “Not being able to put 100% into that hit has been killing me this whole time.” With this full throttle energy, she plans to come back in 2009 and give a powerful performance for the Seminole fans.
Djuric began her path to Tallahassee playing volleyball in her hometown of Belgrade, Serbia. Moving to the United States at the age of 19, the thing she misses most about Serbia is the food. This is because she is more accustomed to food that is fresh and not out of boxes or cans. A lot of what she ate back home was grown by her mother and grandmother in their garden. Besides the home cooking, Djuric also says she misses the feeling of belonging and the feeling that everyone understands her. “Sometimes I will say things and people react like `I have no idea what you are talking about,'” Djuric said. “Seriously, it’s such a culture shock. It’s such a big difference.” For her, it has been great to have two teammates who are also from outside the United States; one being her roommate, Rachael Morgan, a freshman from New Zealand and the other is sophomore Stephanie Neville who hails from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Because of this similarity with her international teammates, Djuric feels as if she can relate to them more. “We are very different. We grew up having the same jokes, same things happening, growing up on the same movies,” Djuric said. “A lot of times people compare things to something and I’ll have no idea what that is. Someone asked me if I ever watched Sesame Street and I had no idea what that was”.
What the Serbia native can tell you is the differences between how volleyball is played in the U.S. compared to internationally. One difference is that in Serbia they choose one sport to play in their youth and focus on that one sport for the remainder of their athletic years. In the U.S., an athlete may run track, play basketball and volleyball during the same school year. Another distinction is the collegiate level in America is full impact and techniques are emphasized and athletes are required to memorize plays. In Serbia, athletes don’t learn everything in four years; it’s taught throughout their entire adolescent years which in turn give them more time to learn the game. Djuric also mentioned that the speed of the game is “quicker” back home and they don’t use as many substitutes and there are technical timeouts. “Over there you played with the same volleyball club for years,” Djuric added. “So while you’re in the game you don’t even have to look because you start to know where the other player is going.”