Sept. 22, 2011
Every Thursday, UCLABruins.com will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we talk with junior Bojana Todorovic, who discusses her recent serving success, her move from Serbia to the U.S. and what she enjoys the most about volleyball.
UCLABruins.com: What are some of the things this team has been doing well to start the season?
Bojana Todorovic: We've been very versatile. We have a lot of depth, so if someone is having an off game, we can send somebody new in. We are definitely working on building up our consistency with the lineups that we put into the game. We've been really good at, when things are under pressure, flipping a switch and pushing hard. But we need to find a way to do that all the time and that's how we are going to beat the best teams.
.com: Are you excited about school starting on Thursday? What class are you the most excited for?
BT: Yeah, very excited. I'm taking Econ 106T, technology and e-commerce, and we do case studies of different firms and what their business plans have been and how they've created the success that they have. We are going to take that and present our own case studies. It's more of an interactive class with all the things I've been studying versus theory, theory, theory. So I'm excited about that.
.com: You have 22 aces this year after recording 25 all of last year. What has been the secret to your success?
BT: The biggest difference this year is that I'm being a little more strategic. I'm not going for the power, but looking for placement. I've realized that with the right placement you can get an ace really easily. It's not like I go back there and I go for aces. That's what a lot of people have done and you get a lot of aces, but you also get a lot of errors and it's not really consistent. I just want to get it to the player that I want to get it to, getting them out of system. If I can get them to pass badly, they can't hit and our block can get it. Every once in a while I'll place it to where they can't even pass it.
.com: What part of your game are you the most proud of?
BT: I'm the most proud of my energy, because that's always there. That's always consistent. Even if I'm not having my best game or if I'm having the greatest game of my life, I'm always pushing and trying to get everybody to pick it up because that's the one thing that I can control all the time. Sometimes you don't get enough sleep or sometimes you are off or injured, but you can always have enough energy.
.com: You were born in Belgrade, Serbia. When did you move to the United States?
BT: We moved in 2000 (when I was nine). My uncle lived in Long Beach and helped my mom get a computer programming job. It was an interesting transition because I thought that we were going on vacation. That's what I told all my friends in school and after a while (my brother and I) realized that we were living here now. And it's not like it was a disappointment for me. It was kind of like, OK cool, because when you are a kid you can make friends right away and it doesn't matter if you speak the language or not.
.com: What do you remember about the war in nearby Kosovo?
BT: I remember the war. Belgrade was hit and there were sirens daily. We'd be out on the playground and then you'd hear sirens and you knew it was time to go home. We'd go underground for some nights. I was too young to understand the gravity of the situation. My parents were good at keeping things calm and telling us we were safe. So when we were underground we would have fun. We would play cards and run around with the other kids. They did a good job at protecting us from what was actually going on. Our choice to move was completely separate from that. It was the case that in Serbia and most of Europe, you don't have the opportunity to go to college and play sports. My mom knew that the United States provided more opportunities for that. The whole move was my parents' decision to get a better life for us and for them.
.com: How often do you get back to Serbia?
BT: I've been back like five, six times. We try to go back as often as possible to see my grandparents and my cousins. It's a pretty expensive trip though, so we can't go every year. I'm looking to go next winter or summer. My grandparents have come to visit us and they would stay for like four to six months at a time until they got their green card so now they are able to stay as often as they want.
.com: How many languages can you speak?
BT: I speak Serbian fluently because I have to speak it at home with my parents. They are fluent in English, but grammatically they'll every now and again miss a word or two because they have 35 years experience in Serbia and like 10 here, so (my brother and I) help them with that. My brother is only a year and a half older than me and he still has an accent, a very noticeable accent where you would know he wasn't born here. But it's obviously not as evident as my dad, who sounds like Borat. But we love it, he loves it, everybody loves him for it. My mom has more of a Russian accent, but you get used to it and if they need help with English then we help them. I took five years of Spanish in high school so I'm very confident in speaking it if I have to. I also learned a little bit of Chinese this summer through a UCLA Travel Study trip to China.
.com: When did you start playing volleyball? Why did you get into it?
BT: I played volleyball in Serbia starting at six or seven. My mom had also played with a very prestigious club team. I had some experience coming to the U.S. and then I started playing club. I did karate for a year before that with my brother. My parents really wanted us to get involved in sports. I was always very active when I was a kid. I'd go play soccer with my brother's friends. I had fun with karate, but then my mom asked if I wanted to try volleyball. At that time, I knew my mom had played because I saw her trophies and pictures, but I really didn't know what volleyball was. She took me to a practice and I liked it. I still have video of my first match and it's hilarious because you see me get really angry when I miss a ball.
.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
BT: The adrenaline rush you get. For example, I jump decently high, but not as high as most people and that's a physical constraint I have with my body. But for some reason when I get in a game, I jump that much higher. It's like when someone is stuck under a car and you can just pick it up. That's the way I feel and I love that feeling because you can't get it anywhere else. It's like you're super human, except you're not, which is the coolest part. I also enjoy the whole concept of timing in volleyball. We are timing the movement of the ball so precisely that we are bouncing it off our body and making it go to a spot. If you think about that twice, that's kind of ridiculous. It's almost impossible.
.com: If you didn't play volleyball, what sport would you play?
BT: I would play dodgeball. If there was a professional league, I would work my butt off to get into that league. I remember in middle school I would be waiting for Fridays because we'd play dodgeball in P.E. I was really good at it. I have pretty good reactions, so I can use that in dodgeball. I had a good arm thanks to volleyball and it's the same movement. You are moving left to right. You are timing when you need to catch the ball or hit somebody. I just love it. I wish it was bigger or considered more of an actual sport.
.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
BT: I like to watch Ultimate Frisbee and I have a lot of friends who play it. People underestimate them. They are very competitive and very intense. They just go all out. At least we have knee pads. They just dive on grass and ground. I like to watch water polo. I have a lot of friends there. Men's volleyball of course.
.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
BT: One would be Arts and Architecture. It's just so different and you get to be involved on stage, which doesn't happen a lot. It puts you in a different mindset, because you can be anybody and nobody knows anything about you. So you can get up there and do whatever you want, which is pretty cool. I also really liked a poetry class I took. It was really interesting reading the poetry and looking at the many meanings of it. Also, the professor was great. He was very articulate and very loose. Whatever you thought that poem was about, he was like "that's a good point, who knows maybe it is about that." He made you think analytically about things.
.com: What is your favorite road arena to play in?
BT: I think my favorite has always been Hawai'i because of the crowd. It's a very different crowd and atmosphere. Everybody is really involved in the game and you know they all know what's going on. Even if we have a really great play and the Wahine don't, they'll still clap for you.
.com: What is your favorite website?
BT: I love StumbleUpon. It's an addiction. You give them a list of your interests and you click on stumble and it gives you a video or a funny fact or a photo. So you don't know what's coming, but every time it's amazing and it's something really interesting.
.com: If you could trade places for a day with a celebrity, who would it be?
BT: I've always admired Angelina Jolie. She's a very attractive woman and a very talented actress, but I feel that's she gone through a lot of phases in her life and she's always been trying to discover who she is. Some people like her and some people don't and I don't think she's ever cared. I think that would be interesting to experience. And she's dating Brad Pitt, so that's always nice.
.com: What is your biggest fear?
BT: It's always been missing out on things, which is probably one of the reasons why I try and do everything. It's like, yeah I can take five classes, I can be in-season with volleyball, I can also do volunteer work, I can go out. I just don't want to miss out on anything. If my friends are doing something and I have something else to do, it's a battle. Sometimes I can't go, but I always try to make it work. I don't want to regret not being there.
.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
BT: I would love to read people's minds, because I'm always trying to figure out what people are thinking anyway. So it would just save me so much time.
.com: Who is the team's class clown?
BT: For the past couple years it has been Nikki (Casale). She is a little crazy. Kelly (Reeves) is right in there. She'll go crazy, because she doesn't care. But I think the award goes to Priscilla (Duke-Ezeji) this year. She's so out there and it's awesome to watch. A lot of us would love to do a headstand right now or pants Lainey (Gera) in the locker room, but we never would. But she will and she won't care. It's kind of a breath of fresh air to have her around.
.com: What are the best and worst things about traveling?
BT: The best thing is that we get our meals paid for. That's pretty nice. You also get to bond with the team more and see them in a different setting. The toughest part is the actual traveling. The bags, the airport, the tickets. Did you spill out all your water so you don't have to go through security again? What did you forget?
.com: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
BT: I enjoy spending time with the people I like, no matter what we are doing. We'll just hang out, talk, listen to music. I'm not very good alone. I won't go sit on my computer for two hours. I could do that if somebody is sitting next to me and we are talking. I also spend a lot of time with my boyfriend.
.com: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
BT: My parents because I am the way I am because of them. I believe a lot in nurture over nature. My mom is very intelligent and a little more matter of fact. My dad is a little more loose, having fun. I have a good mix of both of their qualities. Also, I've been dating my boyfriend Noah for two-plus years and he's definitely made me see the world in a different perspective.
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