Wa-Hi's Todorovich now coach at WWU

Former Blue Devil Sara Todorovich played at Arizona State University and Eastern Washington before suffering a shoulder injury.

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Walla Walla University's new head coach Sara Todorovich coaches the Wolves recently.

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Sara Todorovich, the new volleyball coach at Walla Walla University, goes for a kill while playing at Arizona State University.

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Sara Todorovich, the new volleyball coach at Walla Walla University, goes for a kill while playing at Arizona State University.

COLLEGE PLACE - If you are 6-foot-5, there are built in expectations that you should excel at volleyball. If you dedicate your young life to playing, and achieving a high-level of volleyball expertise, then it seems natural that volleyball should take center stage as you plan your adult future.

Sara Todorovich's life path has progressed to that end as the 23-year old has been named head coach of the Walla Walla University volleyball program.

Todorovich starred at Wa-Hi as a two-time first team all-conference selection, earned a NCAA Division 1 scholarship to Arizona State University, transferred to Eastern Washington University and earned all-Big Sky Conference honors in 2009 before a shoulder injury cut her playing career short, and now finds herself the Wolves' head coach.

"This is my first head-coaching position, and I'm beyond excited," Todorovich said. "I can't believe it. I'm living my dream at 23 years old. This is always where I wanted to end up. I never thought that, at 23, I would be running a (college) program. That's crazy."

The formation to head coach began at a young age for Todorovich.

"I was 6-foot in the sixth grade," Todorovich said. "It was inevitable, at that point, that I was going to play, it was just deciding if it would be volleyball or basketball."

Her Blue Devil background turned the tide to the volleyball court.

"At one point in my junior year, I decided I had to make a decision between volleyball and basketball," Todorovich said. "I chose volleyball and I'm happy I did."

Todorovich is quick to give credit to the Blue Devil experience for helping prepare her for what was to come.

"Wa-Hi was where it all started," Sara said. "I gained a lot of confidence. It was a really good experience and I would like to include Audra Cummings (then a Wa-Hi assistant, now the Blue Devil head coach) as she pushed me to a new level. She taught me how to do a lot of things I didn't know."

And maybe Sara got a little push from little (6-2) sister Rachel. Rachel is in her third year of Cougar varsity volleyball at WSU and is one of the 2011 team captains.

"Rachel has a positive outlook on the season," Sara said. "They (the Cougars) have struggled in the past, but are doing much better this season."

With her playing background locked into her coaching resource bag, Todorovich has hit the ground running with her coaching ideas, and knows recruiting is where it starts.

Todorovich brings her own personal experience to those recruiting trails, and hopes to bring as positive conclusion to her recruits as ASU did for her.

"I got discovered through (Tri-Cities-based) Velocity (club) volleyball," Todorovich said. "It was in Reno during the club Volleyball Festival Tournament. I was kind of an unknown until that tournament.

"I was heavily recruited by University of Nevada-Las Vegas and ASU," Todorovich continued. "ASU called and said they wanted me to come play for them. The feeling was incredible. Playing down there was one of the best experiences of my life."

As Todorovich becomes the recruiter and not the recruited, she knows what she - and the Wolves - are looking for.

"I've got to get some height on this team," Todorovich said of the Wolves' needs. "Don Hepker (WWU's retiring coach) pushed the program in the right direction. There are things that I can (keep) improving on. I want go-getters, girls that will go get a volleyball 30 feet away from them. I want the girls who have the personality of a volleyball player - athleticism, aggression on the court, confidence. Some of those things you can't coach, they have to come with it. It's a natural mixture, and it's hard to find.

"Not only am I looking for that, but I'm looking for girls who can understand a good Christian background," Todorovich continued. "I want girls who are very serious academically."

WWU is an NAIA independent program which brings its own inherent circumstances to recruiting.

"Recruiting will be harder than if I was a D-1 program," Sara added. "I also believe that those girls (we recruit to our NAIA program) are the ones that want to play the most. They are paying to play.

"I firmly believe in having the girls visit before I make an offer," Todorovich said. "Academically, Walla Walla U offers some incredible programs and College Place is a nice college town, that will help us get people here. I not only look for them fitting us, but for us fitting them."

Todorovich can't recruit her height, so that will come from outside, but she can bring her volleyball passion to the Wolves' program.

"I want good athletes and good people on and off the court," Todorovich said. "I want them to want to be here. If they can't give me their all, in and out of season, then they have other places to be. It's nothing personal, I just want this program to be successful. I'm very passionate about this team and want these girls to do well. I want WWU to be the go-to school at least in the SDA world, and hopefully, the go-to volleyball school in the Walla Walla Valley."

Todorovich has limited coaching experience - U-13 club head coach, volunteer assistant at Walla Walla Community College, assistant at WWU, and she will coach a U-18 club team this season - but that lack of experience is offset by what she has learned from other coaches that she has encountered during her career.

"I would like to get our middles running out of a 6-2 offense," Todorovich said of the style she has adapted. "I'm speeding our offense up next year. We'll be running more sets to the outside, as that is hard to cover."

And maybe more than just X's and O's, Todorovich brings some learned psychology to the head coaching spot.

"I've had a pretty big past," Todorovich said of her career. "I've played for a ton of top coaches. I've played for the yeller, for the calm coach, for the coach who plays mind games; (as a result) I know what works and what doesn't. That (experience with top coaches) gives me a step up. I have a pretty good player perspective, because I know what worked or agitated me as a player."

It will be an exciting ride as the Todorovich era commences on the WWU volleyball court.

"I'm in a hurry to start winning and start competing with bigger schools," Todorovich said. "It (winning and competing) is possible. I'm not going to be impatient about it. I know it takes patience to start something great."

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