Ivana Jeremic is helping lead ASU volleyball with mental toughness

Jeremic leads the team in kills this season

In her third season as a Sun Devil, ASU junior outside hitter Ivana Jeremic’s determination for self-improvement in her mental and physical game has shown through impressive individual stats and the team’s best Pac-12 start since 2015.

“(She's) determined, intense … and she loves volleyball,” ASU volleyball head coach Sanja Tomasevic said. “She just loves the game. It’s fun coaching a kid like that.”

Jeremic leads ASU in kills and with some stellar games, other coaches have taken notice of the upperclassman as well.

“She is the player we are looking to score when we want to win a match. We are going to set her. She knows that too. She’s taken it really well,” assistant coach Carlos Moreno said. “It’s pretty awesome to see her maturity level and the confidence she is playing with.”

Jeremic has gone into double-digits in both kills and digs in nine of 18 matches this season, but to her, it is never good enough.

“I am really self-critical,” Jeremic said. “I always think I can do better. Even if I had an awesome night, I come out and think ‘I can do this better.’ I will never say I am doing good; I will always say I can do better.” 

Jeremic has come to the realization that being hard on herself holds her back on the court. She gets into her head and it is hard for her to get out of it. 

“I am getting selfish in the whole situation. I am making the wrong bubble around myself,” Jeremic said. “The team sees I am struggling and they don’t know how to help me because I am in my own head, but I have been working on it. I feel like it’s been getting better in the last couple of weeks.”

In recent matches, Jeremic and the coaching staff have worked to improve the mental side of her game.

“She is her biggest critic and that’s why it took her this long,” Tomasevic said. “She is a really good player. She gets in her own head and when she starts criticizing herself, (and) she doesn’t know how to get out of it ... You got to move on and stop beating yourself up.”

According to Moreno, in Jeremic's first two years at ASU, the coach said Jeremic would isolate herself, but now Jeremic accepts challenges put in front of her head-on. 

When Jeremic can feel herself getting in her own head, she talks about it to her teammates and coaches because she found it is the best way for her to get out of it. 

“I feel like I had more people come up to me (in the last few matches) as that happens,” Jeremic said. “I am fixing it right away or I am trying and they know I am working on it. I think it's getting better.”

Tomasevic tries to get her to focus on the process that leads to a mistake, instead of the mistake itself. That way, Jeremic knows how to fix it.

Moreno and Tomasevic see how hard Jeremic works and her determination to keep improving. They can also see her self-motivation and how it affects her teammates.

“Her actions are bigger than her words,” Moreno said. “The whole team sees that she is becoming an awesome player because she is working so hard. I think it's huge for her and the whole team.”

Jeremic's goal is to improve her play every game, and she would like to see her individual stats improve as well. However, more than anything else, she wants to see her team succeed this season. So far, they are off on the right path with a 12-4 record.

“I see those faces. Everyone is humble, everybody is hungry to win, everybody is there to prove something,” Jeremic said. “I know they have my back. I am going to have their back. It's seeing their faces every day, where they want to get and where I want to get. We have the same goal.”

Following a successful 3-1 road slate, Jeremic and her teammates will be back at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday, Oct. 5 for a matchup with the No. 22 Washington State Cougars. The match is set to begin at 8 p.m. MST.

Reach the reporter at skbrisen@asu.edu or follow @sophiabriseno on Twitter.

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