When the Korean women’s professional volleyball team, which won a dramatic upset in last season’s championship game, selected Vanya Vukiric (24, USA)스포츠토토 as its newest foreign player, the response from within the organization was, “Don’t get your hopes up.”
The defending champions selected Vukiric with the seventh overall pick in the foreign player draft in May. At the time, Korea Expressway Corporation head coach Kim Jong-min said, “We took a longer view of him than his offense,” adding, “We chose him because we think he has a high potential to grow until the next season, not immediately.”
This is Vukiric’s first professional challenge. It’s only been a month since he joined the Korea Expressway Corporation. That’s why coach Kim Jong-min looked at Vukiric from a future perspective rather than the present. In the past, the first foreign players selected in the draft have been somewhat underperforming, so expectations were lowered.
However, Vukiric has quickly raised expectations in a short time. Personality is one of his biggest strengths. His teammates praise his proactivity and adaptability. He is noticeably more responsible than the average foreign player. “I’m a positive person, I try to be positive,” Vukiric said, “I’m naturally energetic and I adapt well wherever I go.”
His jovial personality has also been on display during training camp. Vukiric introduced herself in Korean at a dinner with the Toray squad on March 30, drawing laughter and applause. She said she is studying with setter Lee Yoon-jung, 26, by sharing one Korean-English word each day.
“I’m optimistic and smart,” Vukiric laughed, adding, “I usually joke a lot, but it’s a little disappointing that I can’t do that much because of my language problem.”
“It’s actually good that there’s no pressure,” he said, adding, “I think in two or three years, I should be doing better than I am now. If I can play 100% this year, it will be even better.” When asked about the possibility of playing outside hitter, she said, “I’m more used to being an opposite spiker, but I’m comfortable with both.”
“My volleyball skills are coming along faster than I expected. They are still in the process of adjusting, so there are some overlaps and mistakes, but their willingness to learn and sense of responsibility are helping them grow quickly. Coach Kim Jong-min praised him for his willingness to learn and his ability to adapt quickly, saying, “He has the mindset that he can take care of himself whether the other player makes a mistake or he makes a mistake.”
Vukiric graduated from Ohio State University (B.S.) with a degree in urban engineering and earned his master’s degree from North Carolina State University. “The thinking skills I developed in college help me in volleyball,” he said, “when I attack, I have a plan A, B, and C, and I think about options.” “I think about the plan before the ball comes over, and if the ball comes well, I execute A, and if not, I use options B and C,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity and a worry because Korea’s fast volleyball will be a challenge for me,” Vukiric said, “I think I’m about 70% in the team, but I can’t be satisfied because I need to be 100%. We will get better and better as time goes on.”