News that she had been selected to the NAIA All-American team shocked Columbia College’s Nikolina Rastovac. Rastovac, a freshman from Laxzarevac, Serbia, didn’t know the award existed until Thursday.
Rastovac is growing accustomed to collecting awards she hadn’t heard of until after she had won them. Her selection as the Region V Setter of the Year in November also surprised her.
“(Awards) are important,” Rastovac said. “But I’m not the person … to talk about it. I’m not, like, individual player. I can’t be individual because I play setter … but it means to me a lot to be on the All-American team.”
Rastovac, who led Columbia College in assists (1,888) and aces (129), is one of three first-year Cougars to be selected an All-American. Outside hitters Jacqueline Makokha and Doris Wefwafwa were the others.
Makokha, a junior who transferred to Columbia College after spending the past two seasons at Lee Community College (Texas), led the Cougars with 942 digs and 719 kills. She had 77 aces. Makokha was the American Midwest Conference’s Most Valuable Player.
Wefwafwa, a freshman, led the Cougars with 4.24 kills per game. She also had 553 digs.
“I really like to play with them,” Rastovac said. “They’re really tough, especially Jacqueline. She’s really tough. She doesn’t care if she has a block or whatever, or if she make a mistake … she and Doris, they really deserve that (award).”
Each was named to the NAIA All-Tournament team last weekend after leading Columbia College through the NAIA National Tournament, a run that nearly ended in the Cougars’ fourth title since 1998. Fresno Pacific beat the Cougars in the championship game.
Despite the loss, the season appears to be ending better for Rastovac than it began. She battled the flu in early September and passed out during a game against Truman State.
Getting into shape, Rastovac said, was one of the keys in adjusting to American-style volleyball.
“When I come here, I told (coach Melinda Wrye-Washington) I gonna die after the game,” she said. “Because we have so different styles to play volleyball. We play all year, not only three months, but we play every Saturday … here, (we) play every second day.”
Wrye-Washington made Rastovac and Wefwafwa, who came to America from Kenya in August, run for 20 to 30 minutes each day after practice. After initially struggling to get used to the extra workload, Rastovac said she noticed it paying off; before long she began heading to the fitness center without Wrye-Washington telling her to.
“I saw that it’s like, good for me,” she said. “We went to national tournament, and we played seven games in four days, and I told her after the third game, I can play more. And I jump-served all the tournament and I play all the time.”
Although Rastovac is grateful for any award she earns, she said she would happily trade them in for one thing.
“I wish that we can be first team in America more than my All-American,” Rastovac said.