Women's Club World Champs 2023 - News.

Jovana Stevanovic

At 31, Jovana Stevanovic is still a passionate winner on the court. And she shows no signs of slowing down despite the numerous accolades she has already earned in her career so far. “When I lose my passion for winning, I will stop,” she said in her exclusive interview for Volleyball World.

The 1.92m-tall middle blocker is part of Serbia’s golden generation. As such, she has already triumphed as a world champion twice, in 2018 and in 2022, and celebrated an Olympic silver at Rio 2016. These are just the three most important medals in a long line of podiums earned with the national team at various major world or continental competitions, like the Volleyball Nations League 2022 bronze, when she was named on the Dream Team.

Stevanovic has had an impressive club career so far as well. After growing up in Serbia playing for Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, she transferred to Italy and competed for several local clubs until earlier this year, when she moved to Türkiye to defend the colours of Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul. With her new club, she is about to embark on her second FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship adventure next week in China, after claiming a silver medal at the 2016 edition in the Philippines as a player of Italy’s Pomi Casalmaggiore. In addition to several domestic trophies in Serbia and Italy, Stevanovic’s showcase also includes a CEV Champions League title, also with Pomi in 2016, when she was named a Dream Team middle blocker as well.

The Serbian star and her Eczacibasi teammates are preparing for next week’s Club World Championship (December 13 through 17 in Hangzhou). They share a pool with Brazil’s Gerdau Minas of Belo Horizonte and Chinese hosts Tianjin Bohai Bank and, beyond that, Stevanovic hopes for another edition of Istanbul’s “eternal volleyball derby” with four-time club world champions VakifBank Spor Kulubu.

It is your first season playing in Türkiye. How is it different from your past experiences in Italy and have you been able to adapt?

“It is different from Italy here. It is my first time out of Italy. It feels like the second time I leave home. The first time was when I went to Italy, and now the second - when I left. It has been difficult, but it was the first time I felt ready to play in this kind of competition and leave Italy. Eczacibasi is a really, really big club, and I also like the fact that they have big ambitions and want to win everything. The club has been working on this for many years and I hope I can help them take everything they want this year.”

Outside volleyball, how are you enjoying life in Istanbul? Whom do you hang out with?

“Istanbul is perfect for life and I like it a lot. The city is really big, with lots of great history, places to see, churches and mosques to visit, great restaurants, great food… Meat is wonderful in Türkiye. I’ve been here for a couple of months and I am enjoying it a lot. I mostly go out with Alexa Gray, with Bojana Drca, the Fenerbahce (Opet Istanbul) setter, with Magdalena Stysiak, also from Fenerbahce… On the court, when we play against each other, we are not friends, but outside, after volleyball, we are really good friends.”

What would make a successful first season with Eczacibasi for you?

“To win the Champions League and the Turkish league is my personal target.”

The Club World Championship is also coming up. Are VakifBank Eczacibasi's main obstacle on the way to the title and what will it take to overcome it?

“They are, but I think, before that we also have to win against great teams like Tianjin and Minas. We have to take it step by step and I hope we the beat VakifBank in the final, because this is a derby! We need to enjoy the game more than anything, because we have a really great team, great individual players, and I think what we need is just to believe in ourselves, trust each other and enjoy playing volleyball.”

You are a two-time world champion with Serbia. How much more accomplished can you feel if you win the Olympic title in Paris next year?

“I have a silver from Rio, but my dream is to win the Olympic Games in 2024. I will stop playing volleyball when I no longer feel passion for winning. So every national team season and every club season, I want to win. When I lose it, I will stop.”

Giovanni Guidetti and Daniele Santarelli are arguably the world's most successful coaches in women's volleyball these days. You have worked with both. How would you compare one to the other?

“They are really different. Both are great and their results speak about it, but they are so different in the way they work… I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t want to be misunderstood, but yes, they are really different…”

Name the six athletes you would like to play with on the volleyball team of your dreams.

“Asia (Joanna) Wolosz, because for me she is really the best setter at the moment – her technique, how she uses every player – she is the best! For opposite I will always choose (Tijana) Boskovic, because she is really a strong player, but also a great teammate. Most importantly, she is not selfish and she is great to have on the team. I always wanted to play with Kim (Yeon Koung), because for me she is one of the best outside hitters, but I don’t know her personally. I’ve had the pleasure to play with (Jordan) Larson and I am so happy. She is a great professional and a great person, and you can trust her on the court. For me, Milena Rasic is the best middle blocker. She did a great job both in attack and on the block. For libero I choose (Brenda) Castillo, because she is everywhere. Watching her play in defence and in reception, the way she moves and everything is really great. It’s difficult to play against her, because even my strongest attacks have been easy for her.”

Now that you mentioned Milena Rasic, at one point she was simultaneously a national team world champion with Serbia and a club world champion with VakifBank. Now you have the opportunity to achieve the same in a few days. How would you feel about that?

“Yes, I hope that I can do this. But I think, with our rhythm of playing so many important tournaments - with the national team or with the club team – right after one another, we will feel everything when we actually stop playing, because now we are always in some competition that we have to concentrate on and we don’t have enough time to enjoy our success. So for the players to realize what they have achieved in their careers, they have to stop playing volleyball.”

  • Watch the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship live on  VBTV