Monday, April 22

Digging Deep: Senior’s versitality, competitiveness key for women’s volleyball team

Bojana Todorovic's competitive spirit has allowed her to change positions several times throughout her career at UCLA. The senior now plays libero after being an outside hitter for the past two seasons.

Bojana Todorovic's competitive spirit has allowed her to change positions several times throughout her career at UCLA. The senior now plays libero after being an outside hitter for the past two seasons.

Blaine Ohigashi

At the end of a Monday practice, senior libero Bojana Todorovic rotates out of a passing and hitting drill.

She watches intently, but ultimately, she can’t fight the urge.

She walks to the opposite side of the court, lies down on her back and begins doing crunches: One, two, three. Even though she plays the most overlooked position on the court, she doesn’t stop.

Regardless of the fact that her team, the defending national champion, is playing two of the four worst teams in the conference this weekend, she pushes forward.

When she’s asked about it, her playful smile disappears, leaving only the passionate fire in her eyes as she begins to talk.

“I don’t like to be static. I’ve always had a problem with just being complacent. I like change,” Todorovic said.

On the outside, change defines Todorovic’s life.

But beneath the surface, nothing has really changed.

Nothing is Everything

Todorovic has always been a competitor.

As a child, she would play soccer with her brother and the older boys. She said that she would try to beat them and became frustrated when she didn’t. But it didn’t stop her from trying.

“It’s kind of like the minute I see someone else doing something, I want to try it and I want to be better at it,” Todorovic said.

More than a decade later, that same natural competitiveness defines her play on the court.

It’s early October and UCLA is playing a lowly Arizona State team it will go on to sweep handily.

In the middle of the second set, Todorovic misses a routine dig. She claps her hands in frustration and returns to her position.

She eyes the ball across the court like a hawk eyes its prey and knows nothing more than the play ahead of her.

She plays the next point like it’s her last one. In fact, she plays every point with that same razor-sharp intensity.

Junior outside hitter Kelly Reeves is quick to point out that Todorovic is the most competitive player on the team.

Reeves is even quicker to point out that nothing has changed in the three years she has known her.

“I don’t think she has really changed. I think she’s still the person who she is from day one that I met her. She’s that competitive fireball who just gets after it,” Reeves said.

Last December, UCLA won their fourth national championship, and first since 1991.

For the ultimate competitor, nothing can take the place of winning, but it was not the title that held significance for Todorovich ““ it was the game itself.

“Nothing. That’s the weird part,” Todorovic said of her feelings after UCLA won the championship.

“To be playing the best of the best is what most athletes strive to do. Just to be in that moment, to compete, I think that was more than that title. Just to be in the final, just to compete.”

The Drive

During the middle of her sophomore season, Todorovic, generously listed at 5 feet 11 inches, was doing what she wasn’t supposed to be doing.

She was playing, and succeeding, as an outside hitter in the best conference in Division I where the position is mainly reserved for 6-foot-plus women.

Todorovic doesn’t jump very high either, so she is at a severe physical disadvantage on the court.

She jokes about stretching to grow an inch but inside she truly believes no disadvantage can stop her.

“(She) likes to fight. She’s not afraid to be challenged. And she always likes to be challenged and she takes it upon herself to do whatever she can in order to succeed,” Reeves said.

But even though Todorovic is exceeding others’ expectations, she isn’t exceeding her own expectations ““ she never is.

“My thing is my standards for myself are always higher than anyone else’s. So I guess I’ve been always kind of falling short of my own expectations, which is tough to take,” Todorovic said.

“So if I’m trying to, I don’t know, figure out juggling, and I finally figure out how to do three balls. I’m like, “˜Dang it, why didn’t I figure out four?’”

It’s a mentality that drives her, but one she is afraid will always leave her unsatisfied with what she has.

What she has, though, is volleyball.

“She is an absolute volley-dork. Volleyball is her life. It’s all that’s ever been important to her. You don’t need to motivate her. She’s dying to get in there and play everyday,” coach Michael Sealy said.

One Direction

This year, Todorovic is playing libero, her third position in four years. She played outside hitter her first two years and defensive specialist last year.

“That’s the beauty of my role that I’ve accepted. It’s hard to accept because you don’t really have one direction. You can’t really narrow your focus because you have to work on everything,” Todorovic said.

“Next game I could be an outside. I could be setting. I could be a (defensive specialist). I don’t know.”

For the open-minded Todorovic, who is always open to trying new things and admits to never having a best friend or only one group of friends, staying on one path isn’t her style.

Aside from playing volleyball, she dabbles in swing dancing, does volunteer work, and she majors in economics.

But what comes next ““ the future ““ is threatening to cramp that style.

Soon Todorovic, a graduating senior, will have to choose between continuing her volleyball career or embarking on another path.

“Before, (my place in volleyball) was always so natural, it just happened naturally. It was like “˜for four years, I’ll be playing here (at UCLA). No worries.’ But now, I don’t know any more. I don’t know what I’m doing after this,” Todorovic said.

The future is the one change she can’t quite embrace.

But regardless of what happens next, the girl doing crunches in the least likely of times will never change.

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