Aug. 15, 2012
BERKELEY - As the California volleyball 2012 season approaches, CalBears.com will be looking back at some of the former talented Golden Bears who have helped build the perennial powerhouse and the jerseys they wore. With 10 days remaining until the start of this year's campaign, CalBears.com caught up with Mia Jerkov, who sported No. 10 from 2001-04.
Student-Athlete Spotlight - Mia Jerkov
CalBears.com: What made you choose your number?
Mia Jerkov: No. 10 was the number I had for the last two years I played in Croatia for Pula Istarska Banka and won many trophies, so naturally when I had to choose my number at Cal, I went straight for No. 10. Even today I have no regrets that I chose it because No. 10 carries many wonderful memories of the path we made to make the Cal volleyball team what it is today.
CalBears.com: What does it mean to be one of the Bears to have worn your number?
MJ: That's a hard question. I believe that jersey carries a weight of responsibility because that's what I would feel every time I would step on the court as a Golden Bear - responsibility to carry the team to the victory and make the team better, day in and day out. I was made captain fairly early in my college career so, besides trying to excel individually, I felt the need to make my teammates better. I pushed them every single day to be better than they were the day before. Believe me, I was the hardest on myself.
CalBears.com: What was your favorite Golden Bear memory?
MJ: I have so many fantastic memories. But by far, it's the first victory over Stanford after 21 years of defeats. It happened in our gym. After the last ball dropped on the ground, I remember the floor started shaking from all the staff, players and fans rushing it. It still gives me chills when I remember it. That victory represented a major step up in our mental toughness, and I felt players finally started to believe that we are not an ordinary team. Maybe it's bold, but the making of the victorious team Cal represents today, in part started with that victory over Stanford many, many years ago.
CalBears.com: What does it mean to you to have played for Cal volleyball?
MJ: Playing for Cal represents a major victory for me as an individual. At the time when I decided to come to Cal, it was impossible for Croatian national team players to go to school. I managed to do it although I was banned for one year later on. I will never regret it because the experience of playing for Cal made me believe that when you fight for your dreams those eventually do come true. So I dared to dream, and I fought, and I believed in the team and the life Cal had to offer. Overall, I believe it made me a better person and better athlete. I will always be that stubborn, stubborn kid who always wants to win no matter what.
CalBears.com: What are you up to these days - where do you live, what do you do, etc.?
MJ: Right now I live in Split, Croatia, and it;s only yards away from my parents' house. After Cal I played in Russia for two years where I won two national championships. Later I went to Italy for five years. For the last two years, I lived in South Korea. It all has been a wonderful experience and the whole traveling and living abroad adds to your own understanding of other people and cultures. I was lucky enough to find many new friends that really enriched my life. Today I speak many more languages than before. Lately I've been working on some projects that will eventually help me when I decide to quit volleyball. These projects are related to the family business of furniture, kitchen and interior design. The problem with that is that volleyball is my great passion, so I will play it while I enjoy it. There is nothing better than relaxing after a great day of working out, but I'm sure that will change once I become a mom. I will be joining national team camp in couple of weeks, and after that I will join my new pro team. It has been a pretty exciting and rich life I'm living so far, and I'm hoping it will continue to be so.
All-Time Jersey No. 10 Wearers:
Are you a former California volleyball student-athlete and interested in participating in our countdown? Please email calsid_volleyball at Berkeley.edu.