Eagles Sign Trio of Serbians in Benson’s First Class
Trio are junior college transfers who should help augment a group of 10 returning letterwinners
A trio of junior college transfers – all from the country of Serbia – have signed letters of intent and comprise the first recruiting class following the return of Wade Benson as head coach of the Eastern Washington University volleyball program.
The players include Stanka Panic and Milica Nisavic from Casper (Wyo.) College, and Sofija Ivanovic (pictured) from Laramie (Wyo.) County Community College. All three earned All-Region IX honors in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Panic (pronounced STAH-sha Pan-Itch) and Nisavic (Muh-LEE-kuh NEE-suh-vich) are both from Novi Sad in Serbia and were high school classmates. Ivanovic (pronounced Sawf-ee-uh Eye-VON-oh-vich) is from Belgrade, Serbia. Panic is a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, Nisavic is a 6-foot setter and Ivanovic is a 6-foot outside hitter.
Ivanovic played the past two years for new EWU assistant coach Darren Buckner. Buckner led the team to an 18-12 overall record and fourth-place finish in the Region IX North Conference in his first year at the helm in 2011. The school had its second-straight winning season in 2012, as the Golden Eagles finished 17-15.
“This recruiting class was a late recruiting class for us because we were coming in as a new staff in January,” explained Benson. “We feel that with our time allotment we hit a home run with these recruits. We went the junior college route for one of the first times (in my coaching career).”
Benson returns for his second stint as EWU’s head coach, after helping lead EWU to one NCAA Tournament berth, three Big Sky regular season titles and one Big Sky Tournament championship. He had an impressive record of 154-55 (.737) from 2000-06, and his Big Sky record during that time of 78-24 (.765) still ranks among the top four in conference history.
“When I was here previously, we had only one or two junior college transfers total,” he added. “We feel very strongly about these three, and, strangely enough, they are all coming from Serbia.”
The Eagles return 10 letterwinners, including four starters, from last year’s squad which finished 5-26 overall and 5-15 in the Big Sky Conference.
Sofija Ivanovic – OH, 6-0, Jr., JC, Belgrade, Serbia / Pancero ’10 / Laramie (Wyo.) CC
Wade Benson on Ivanovic: “Sofija is a strong outside hitter who can also play on the right side. She is a five tool player, meaning she can play all the way around for us. I think she is going to add some great experience for us having played internationally. She did a very nice job for Laramie County Community College where our recruiting coordinator, Darren Buckner, was head coach.”
JC: Earned NJCAA All-Region honors at Laramie (Wyo.) Community College as both a freshman and a sophomore. Her team was coached by current Eastern assistant Darren Buckner. Laramie was 18-12 overall in her freshman season and finished fourth in the Region IX North Conference. As a sophomore, the Golden Eagles finished 17-15. In her sophomore season, she averaged 3.4 kills and 0.4 service aces per set, and hit .192. Ivanovic averaged 3.1 kills and 0.8 digs as a freshman, and hit .320 for the season.
HS: Graduated from Pancero High School in 2010. In 2006-07 she played for the Serbian national team which finished second in all of Europe in her age group. In 2002-03, she played on a team that was third in Europe and she earned accolades as the best player in her age group in all of Serbia.
Personal: Born 3/21/91 in Belgrade, Serbia. Parents are Bojan Ivanovic and Snezana Obrenov Ivanovic. Her father played professional basketball in Serbia. Intends on majoring in education at EWU. Name is pronounced “Sawf-ee-uh Eye-VON-oh-vich.”
Milica Nisavic – S, 6-0, Jr., JC, Novi Sad, Serbia / Svetozar Markovic ‘11 / Casper (Wyo.) College
Wade Benson on Nisavic: “Milica locates the ball very well, and she understands tempo. We think she is going to run a very fast offense for us. She is also a surprisingly good blocker in the front row. “
JC: Attended Casper (Wyo.) two seasons, earning honors as 2012 Setter of the Year in Region IX. She also earned NJCAA All-Region IX honors as a freshman and sophomore, and was also named to the Region IX All-Tournament team both seasons. As a sophomore, she averaged 8.63 assists, 2.0 digs, 0.8 kills and 0.5 blocks per set, and hit .302. A year earlier, she averaged 8.65 assists, 2.1 digs. 0.5 kills and 0.3 blocks while hitting .370. She played at Casper with Eagle teammate Stanka Panic, and they helped lead their team to a regional championship in 2012 and a third-place finish in 2011. Casper finished 23-19 in her sophomore season and 16-20 when she was a freshman.
HS: Graduated from Svetozar Markovic HS in 2011. A teammate of fellow Eagle Stanka Panic, her high school team finished fourth at the national championships in 2010.
Personal: Born 6/23/92 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Parents are Slavomir and Svetlana Nisavic. Intends on majoring in public relations at EWU. Name is pronounced “Muh-LEE-kuh NEE-suh-vich.”
Stanka Panic – OH, 5-9, Jr., JC, Novi Sad, Serbia / Svetozar Markovic ’11 / Casper (Wyo.) College
JC: Attended Casper (Wyo.) two seasons where she earned All-America honors as a sophomore. She also earned NJCAA All-Region IX honors as a freshman and sophomore, and was also named to the Region IX All-Tournament team both seasons. As a sophomore, she averaged 2.95 kills, 3.4 digs and 0.4 blocks per set, and hit .201. In her freshman season, Panic averaged 3.49 kills, 4.1 digs, 0.2 blocks and hit. 270. She played at Casper with Eagle teammate Milica Nisavic, and they helped lead their team to a regional championship in 2012 and a third-place finish in 2011. Casper finished 23-19 in her sophomore season and 16-20 when she was a freshman.
HS: Graduated from Svetozar Markovic HS in 2011. A teammate of fellow Eagle Milica Nisavic, her high school team finished fourth at the national championships in 2010.
Wade Benson on Panic: “Stanka is an undersized outside hitter, but she has a lot of pop to her attack. She brings the ability to move the ball around well, and she is a superior ball control player. Whether she plays front row or back row for us will be determined in the fall, but I would not bet against her winning a front row position.”
Personal: Born 2/21/92 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Parents are Djura and SmiLjana Panic. Intends on majoring in economics at EWU. Name is pronounced “STAH-sha Pan-itch.”