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Anja Malesevic made a smooth transition after leaving her immediate family behind when moving from Serbia to the United States earlier this year, but there is one thing that still gets her, something she can’t get over.
The 6-foot-2 Benjamin Cardozo outside hitter produces oohs, ahs and wows from a crowd of volleyball fans when she puts down a powerful and perfectly placed kill. There were plenty during a 15-kill performance in front of her schoolmates in a win over rival Francis Lewis Monday. Malesevic can’t help but get a kick out of it.
“I have never played in front of such excited people,” she said. “They are so cheerful. They really enjoy watching volleyball. That’s what makes me enjoy playing.”
High school volleyball in itself is something she is getting used to. She said in Serbia, where she picked up the game in the second-grade, you play for a club team with and against older and taller girls and not your school.
Malesevic has been a pleasant and productive surprise for the Judges since moving to Astoria to live with her aunt and uncle to work toward going to college. She already had interest from Columbia to play volleyball, according to Cardozo Coach Dan Scarola.
The senior, as of Tuesday, was leading the PSAL in kills with 95 and helped the Judges make up for the loss of last season’s top hitter, Alexis Hamilton, who moved to California after her freshman season. Malesevic’s strong play has gotten her a little bit of a following at the school.
“A big kill like that is like a homerun,” Scarola said. “Everyone likes to watch it and see what she can do.”
What she’s done is help a veteran team remain in the upper echelon of the teams in New York City. Cardozo, which lost in the Class A semifinals last season, is undefeated in league play and is one of the favorites to claim its third city title in the last four years.
Malesevic said she has embraced her new role as a leader and go-to player, saying she enjoys it. She provided key points for the Judges against Francis Lewis. When the Patriots got within 16-13 in the second set, she respond with spiking down three straight sets from Jessica Yin to give back control to her team. It further solidifies her teammates’ first impressions of her.
“I know we had some real good players, but having her would help us a lot,” senior middle blocker Alyssa McAdam said.
Those around Malesevic, her teammates and the rest of the Cardozo students have made things easier for her as well. They welcomed her with open arms and made her life as enjoyable as she’s made theirs.
“People are so cheerful here,” Malesevic said. “That’s what always surprises me, how they get excited about everything.”
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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