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News: Trivunovic is transfer of power

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Trivunovic is transfer of power

Junior transfer Vesna Trivunovic leads fifth-seeded Columbia College into the NAIA Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Sioux City,Iowa. The Serbia native, who spent her first two seasons at an Illinois junior college, is tied for third in the NAIA with 4.8 kills per set.

By Matt Nestor Columbia Daily Tribune

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vesna Trivunovic said she doesn't remember what her expectations were when she decided to leave her native Serbia to come to the United States to play volleyball.

She boiled the move down to experiencing something new while continuing her education and her volleyball career.

After two seasons playing at Lake Land Community College in Mattoon, Ill., Trivunovic found something she wasn't looking for. When Trivunovic visited Columbia College, she got a chance to practice with the Cougars. She liked that she had found a team.

"It's so hard to find a team that you think you're going to belong to," the junior outside hitter said. "Most of the players are just playing. I think this whole team is going along together. In my 16 years playing, I never saw like this team plays."

In her first season in Columbia, Trivunovic, a native of Zrenjanin, Serbia, is one of the key components who will be leading the Cougars next week at the NAIA Tournament at the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

The three-time champion Cougars, making their 17th straight tournament appearance, are seeded fifth overall and the top seed in Pool E. Columbia (37-2) will face Oklahoma City University on Tuesday, Rocky Mountain University on Wednesday and Azusa Pacific on Thursday.

Bracket play begins Dec. 3 with semifinals and finals scheduled for Dec. 4.

Combining power with a deft touch, Trivunovic makes putting a ball down ? even against defenses aligned to take her out of the game ? look as easy as 1-2-3. But in volleyball, especially against the caliber of teams the Cougars will face next week, you can't just jump to 3. Trivunovic said she wouldn't have the numbers she has without a 1 and a 2.

"Volleyball's not a one-player sport. It's a whole team," Trivunovic said. "The whole team makes one good player. It's not just one. No one's the best player. The passer needs to set the ball. Setter needs to set. Hitter needs to put the ball down."

And that she's done with regularity. Trivunovic, who said she declined NCAA Division I offers to play at Columbia, is among NAIA leaders in kills per set (4.8, tied for third) and total aces (71, ninth).

Trivunovic has fit in seamlessly with the Cougars' up-tempo style of play. She has collected 579 total kills, which ranks fifth in the nation, despite playing in 18 fewer sets than any player inside the top eight.

She wants the ball ? like Michael Jordan. And the Cougars have surrounded her with plenty of Scottie Pippens.

Playing alongside All-American candidates Tally Mattos at libero and Paula Ferreira at setter has helped Trivunovic this season. But the Serbian's play has opened things up for her fellow Cougars.

In the American Midwest Conference Tournament semifinals, Hannibal-LaGrange shifted its best blocker to stop Trivunovic. That allowed middle blocker Ola Shawky and right-side hitter Kelly Corkum to have career nights.

"She's only getting better with us, because she's learning to play with a team," Coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said. "The team has really accepted her, and I think that really makes a big difference. Their chemistry on and off the court has taught them to play together and not be so selfish."

Reach Matt Nestor at 573-815-1786 or e-mail mnestor@columbiatribune.com.

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