Oct. 15, 1997

Coming Back

After missing last season with an injury, Tania Jovanovic is playing soccer again

By Adam Jones

Tania Jovanovic
Tania Jovanovic has made her mark on Virginia soccer.

Tania Jovanovic is midway through her fourth year of school at the University of Virginia. However, this is only her third year playing soccer for the Cavaliers. She missed the 1996 season after suffering an ankle injury which kept her sidelined the entire year. Even with the playing time she missed last season, Jovanovic is tied for first all-time at UVa in game-winning assists with nine, and is tied for seventh in career assists with 16. Although her playing time this season has diminished since her injury, Jovanovic's impact on the team has never changed. "I'm not at the level of play that I was before my injury," says Jovanovic. "My ankle still hurts at times, but it's not hurting in a way that will keep me from playing. I don't feel like it is unstable or anything, but there has definitely been an adjustment to make. I think anytime you take a year off from a sport, it's hard technically and tactically to return. So now I'm trying to get back into the swing of things."

Jovanovic has made a number of achievements in uniform, but she has also been very influential away from the field. Some of her contributions may have gone unnoticed by others, but not her teammates. "My role as a player has obviously changed," says Jovanovic. "Maybe with more hard work, I can get back to where I was before my injury. I feel like it is something that is in my own hands. However, my role as a person and teammate has been that I've always tried to be outgoing. Even after my injury, I have stayed positive because I care about the team and all of my teammates. I've always been an optimistic person. Maybe I'm not leading on the field the way I would have if I had not been injured, but I'm still a leader on the team because of my character. I also try to look out for the younger players, because I remember how it was such a tense environment for my teammates and I during our first year. We decided that this year we were going to make sure that the first year class didn't feel that way." It obviously worked, and the reaction hasn't gone unrecognized. "Just the other day, there was a note attached to my door, and it said, 'To all the fourth years, I really appreciate the talk you gave us in the locker room yesterday. All of us really appreciate the way all of you have made us feel so welcomed.'

"That made me feel so good because some of us didn't feel that way when we first came here," says Jovanovic. "I encourage all of my teammates to come and talk to me about anything if they need to. This is my fourth year and a lot of what the younger players are going through now, with school and soccer, I've already been through. I want them to know that I am here for them."

The chemistry on this years squad, both on and off the field, has certainly been beneficial. The Cavaliers stand 10-1-2 on the season, and everyone is contributing towards the team's ultimate goal, winning a national championship.

"We feel good and we are confident," says Jovanovic. "It is the middle of the season, and a lot of teams that are very good in the beginning of the season will die off. That is one thing we are addressing as a team, so it doesn't happen to us. I think the most important thing for us is to look at what we need to do from game to game, and to keep our confidence up in practice. I think we have more depth on the team this year than we have ever had in my four years. A lot of that contributes to the mix of experience our returning players bring, along with the talent our first years players have brought with them."

Only time will tell how far this year's team will go. But no matter how far that is, the Cavaliers won't have to look very far for a player that is ready. Ready for her teammates, and ready to play.