Bryanna McDermott | Asst. Photo Editor
When Julijana Vojinovic first arrived in the United States, she felt like she was in a movie thanks to culture shock.
The junior guard for Duquesne’s women’s basketball team came to the U.S. on Aug. 15, 2015, all the way from her hometown of Cacak, Serbia. While she described the experience as “very tough,” she knew Duquesne was where she was meant to be.
“Everyone is just talking in English, signs on the street are in English, everything is confusing,” Vojinovic said. “Coming to States was one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my life because I knew I was coming somewhere where I have never been before. But I knew everything [was] going to be alright. And at this moment, I never regret that I made this decision.”
Before arriving in the U.S. and taking the court for Duquesne, Vojinovic played for the Serbian National team since 2011. She averaged 13.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in the 2014 U16 European Women’s Championships, where Serbia finished in first place in its division and fourth overall after losing to Spain in the bronze medal matchup.
“Serbia is a very small country — it’s the size of Nebraska — but it is full of the best athletes [in the] world,” Vojinovic said. “It is such an honor to represent your country [in] world championship and European championships. We had some great achievements, and these are all memories that will always make you happier when you think about them.
“Coaches are very skilled, players are very talented, and you need to work hard to deserve to wear the jersey of your country,” she continued. “Being part of the Serbian National team is one of the best feelings ever.”
Vojinovic’s clear passion for her native country is part of what drew her to Duquesne and the city of Pittsburgh in the first place. While the university’s education and basketball team appealed to the 21-year-old, it was the diversity and familiarities that drove her to make the commitment to become a Duke.
“Duquesne was appealing because of all the different nationalities that we have on our team,” Vojinovic said. “Also, [Pittsburgh] has a lot of Serbs and Orthodox churches. So, whenever I would feel homesick, I know where to go.”
As a freshman at Duquesne, Vojinovic played in only 20 games, but was a leading contributor for the last year’s team, playing in 34 games and starting 22. During her sophomore season, Vojinovic put up 18 double-figure scoring games, including a 17 point, 10 rebound double-double against Richmond on Jan. 25.
But even after ending the campaign averaging 1.79 three-point field goals made a game, Vojinovic looks not at her individual statistics, but at the team’s potential as a whole.
“I feel great about [last season] because that is me, that is my game that defines me,” Vojinovic said. “But it is never good enough. It can and it will be even better. However, it is not all about me, [as] I am sure that everyone’s goal is to win. We had ups and downs during the last season, and we were inconsistent. We lost games we shouldn’t [have]. It has to be better this season.”
However, with her team-first mentality, Vojinovic is still working on improving herself both on and off the court.
“I always work on mental balance and focus and on training my mind, so definitely I will continue improving that,” Vojinovic said. “Basketball wise, I know I am strong, so I have to go into contact and finish with [a] lay-up or get fouled. I keep improving my game and my mental strength, because so many times, it is more … mental than basketball.”
The women’s basketball team will kick off its 2017-18 season on Nov. 10 in Charlotte, North Carolina, versus UNC Charlotte, and Vojinovic is ready for the challenge a new season presents.
“I cannot wait for this season to start, and all we have to do is win the game,” she said. “Sounds easy, but that’s how it is. I believe we will be more consistent than last year and hungry to win.”