ASU volleyball head coach Sanja Tomasevic is a role model to players and other coaches

The first-year head coach is forging relationships with other coaches, including women's basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne

From the moment that the ASU women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne met Sanja Tomasevic, she knew that the new volleyball coach would be perfect for the job.

“First time I met her, we did a coaches forum, with myself (and) Linda Vollstedt, who was the women's golf coach at the time,” Turner Thorne said. “We decided that we would do this breakfast. They wanted to get all the female coaches together to share and mentor each other.”

When she met with the Turner Thorne, Tomasevic discussed her future plans for the program. When ASU hired Tomasevic as head coach, she was ecstatic.

“I went away from there (thinking), ‘Man, she’s good,'” Turner Thorne said. “Whenever we get a new coach, (I) extend out to them and say, 'If you need any help, let me know,' because I've been here a long time.”

Turner Thorne said that usually when you extend the invite, coaches do not think to actually call. Tomasevic did not hesitate. 

“Everyone has been reaching out,” Tomasevic said. “It’s pretty cool to see the amount of work you're getting from your coworkers here and I've always felt like I have them backing me up.”

Turner Thorne said that Tomasevic reaches out to her sometimes and will ask her for advice on certain situations. She said that for Tomasevic to contact her shows just how committed she is to being a successful coach.

“That speaks volumes to me too because she wants to be great – she's going to be great,” Turner Thorne said.

On Sept. 21, Tomasevic invited Turner Thorne to the Pac-12 opener as a guest coach as well as a speaker at their pregame meal. Despite the end result of the match, Turner Thorne said the opportunity was definitely worthwhile.

“I have not done that before,” Turner Thorne said. “I had fun – it was a real honor”

Turner Thorne believes that Tomasevic will be a great coach and mentor for the young women, and she is not the only one who knows it. Women's volleyball assistant coach Carlos Moreno said that Tomasevic's drive is what makes her special.

“Sanja has one gear,” Moreno said. “She's just going to go forward, and you just have to keep up with her, which is awesome because she has this passion for the game that is pretty amazing.”

Tomasevic brings a wealth of knowledge to the women's volleyball program. Moreno said her compassion is equally as important.

“You can tell how much she cares by how she smiles,” Moreno said. “It's fun to be around her. She cares about everyone, not only the players, but the whole staff.”

Senior libero Halle Harker said that the compassion she sees from her coach is noticed by her teammates. 

“She believes in every single one of us as players,” Harker said. “She believes that we’re so much more than volleyball players, and that's huge to me.”

While Harker said that Tomasevic can be blunt, both she and her teammate, junior opposite hitter Peyton Grahovac, know that she just wants what is best for the team.

“It's a whole clean slate, so we get to begin a new culture,” Grahovac said. "I think she … really embraced that. She encourages us every day as a team on what kind of culture we want.”

Both women agreed that Tomasevic is a huge role model. Her track record as a two-time All-American and the 2005 Asics and National Player of the Year at the University of Washington is something that Moreno believes the players can draw from. 

Turner Thorne knows she will do great things with the team.

“She’s a rising rock star, she really is. Not all great players become great coaches, but she just gets it,” Turner Thorne said. “What she learned as a player she's very much able to translate and communicate with her players, and she has that master teacher in her. She really cares about her women.”  

Reach the reporter at or follow @KellyB1459 on Twitter.

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