Cal Volleyball Has a Gem of a Player in Mia Jerkov

Oct. 17, 2001

BERKELEY, CA - Introducing Mia Jerkov to California fans is like showing off a volleyball gem. The 6-3 standout from Croatia was difficult to find and took awhile to arrive at Berkeley, but she has been well worth the wait. Already shining brightly as a top player for the Golden Bears, Jerkov (Yair-cove) will no doubt play a huge part in Cal's success this weekend when it hosts Washington State and Washington at Haas Pavilion.

Having only played in five complete matches for the Bears, Jerkov has already tallied 72 kills with 49 digs, six service aces and two solo blocks as an outside hitter. More importantly, she has shown she is the type of marquee player with the size and skills necessary to elevate the Cal program in the highly competitive Pac-10 Conference.

'Mia is a very special person for our program,' said Cal head coach Rich Feller, a former assistant coach with the USA National Team. 'Through communications with the Croatian National Team coaches, we became aware of her interest in attending a U.S. university. Mia brings incredible volleyball skills, as well as the experience of a player many years older. She really has adapted well to the college life and is fully integrated with our team. She is the quality of player we can build our program around.'

Due to commitments with both the Croatian National and Junior National Teams, as well as the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Jerkov did not play for Cal until Oct. 5 versus Oregon. In the month of September, she played at the World Junior Championships in the Dominican Republic and the European Championship in Bulgaria. And, in between those two international tournaments, she adjusted to school and life in Berkeley. Jerkov was scheduled to play for the Bears against Arizona State and Arizona, Sept. 14-15, but those matches were postponed due to the events of Sept. 11, consequently, she was relegated to practicing with the team.

'I'm doing pretty well adjusting to life in Berkeley,' said Jerkov. 'I'm concentrating heavily on volleyball. I have to get better and I want to get better. It is tough traveling so much and having to also worry about school, but I'm used to it. Being at Cal has been a new experience and I've been looking forward to it. I really came here to play good volleyball and get a great education. This is something I couldn't get anywhere else in the world...not in Croatia, Italy, anywhere.'

Jerkov has both an Italian connection and athleticism in her genes as she was born Dec. 5, 1982 in Cattolica Forli, Italy where her father, Zeljko, was playing basketball at the time. A seven-footer, Zeljko was the premier center for the Yugoslavian basketball team, leading his country to the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the '80 Moscow Olympics. Mia Jerkov has turned down several offers to play professional volleyball in Italy.

'I had a chance to play professionally in Italy, which is the best professional league in the world. I had about 10 different offers,' said Jerkov. 'It was a tough choice, but I wanted to get an education. I also have friends of the family, Boris and Zdenka Pentic, who are my parents best friends and live in San Francisco. They are great people and were a factor in my choosing Cal.'

Jerkov's story of how she became a Bear truly spans the entire globe. Although only an 18-year-old freshman, she does have the demeanor of an older player, thanks to years of international experience. Fortunately for the Bears, Jerkov spurned her professional offers and decided to follow through on her plans to get an education in the United States, where she intends to study business at Cal and gain entrance to the Haas School of Business. With all her travels to international tournaments, Jerkov is well versed in studying on the road. She plans to continue traveling back and forth between Cal and Croatia's international tournaments. Jerkov also plans to represent Croatia at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Another reason Jerkov chose to become a Bear is the chance to play against the best college teams in the nation in the Pac-10 Conference.

'Pac-10 volleyball is really good,' said Jerkov. 'But, I think we (Cal) still have a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. This team has a chance to be real good. We definitely have potential. We need to have hard practices and the team has to not only be in good physical shape, but in top volleyball shape. If we continue to practice tough, we can get a lot better.'

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