Three-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference volleyball champion and All-Academic Team athlete Sonja Radulovic ‘20 continues to be a powerhouse on and off the court. A native of Toronto, Canada, outside hitter Radulovic was a force to be reckoned with on the Fairfield University women’s volleyball team from 2016-2020.
As a senior captain in 2019, she led the team to an electrifying 3-2 upset over Marist College in the MAAC Semi-Finals, after being down 2-0. Radulovic talks about the Semi-Finals like it happened yesterday.
“Not only do we owe that win to the fans, but that is by far the coolest atmosphere I have ever been a part of. The floor was literally shaking beneath me, I still get chills just talking about it!” Radulovic shared.
The next day, Radulovic and the Stags took the 3-1 win over Quinnipiac University to win the MAAC title, which served as the program’s 11th MAAC Conference Championship.
Last October, Radulovic signed a professional volleyball contract with OK Jedinstvo Užice in Serbia, which was a lifelong goal of hers.
“It has been my dream to play pro ever since I was a little girl, and sometimes I still feel like I’m dreaming,” Radulovic expressed.
Four months into her first professional season, Radulovic still can’t believe that this is her life. She revealed that her desire to live in Europe was no secret to her friends and family, as she has always cherished the European culture and people. She believes that her four years at Fairfield prepared her for the move overseas.
“I was away from home during my four years at Fairfield, and that surely helped prepare me for this transition. Moving to Europe felt very similar, [and] the time difference added another obstacle, but I still manage to talk to family and friends when my schedule allows,” Radulovic said.
When Radulovic does get a break from the action, she enjoys exploring new cities, stopping at little coffee shops and taking in all that her new home has to offer.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has presented formidable challenges to her debut in the Prva Liga, the league in which her new team plays. Her team faced a two week pause of competition in the middle of December, when her head coach contracted the virus.
Radulovic and her team are now back on schedule and have started the second half of their season. Due to COVID-19, there are a limited number of fans allowed at the games. However, family and friends can be added to the guest list, which is a luxury for Radulovic.
“I was lucky enough to have some of my friends and family that are in Europe come to a few games. It means a lot to me knowing I have such a strong support system cheering me on no matter where I am in the world,” Radulovic said.
Radulovic enjoys the free time and independence that comes with playing professionally, but has learned to provide her own support system. “You are given a lot of freedom to do what you want between practices, but you are responsible for how everything you do affects your image, your club’s image and, of course, your health and performance.”
While Radulovic has fulfilled her lifelong dream of being a professional athlete, she misses the energy of game days at Alumni Hall, and her teammates who she still calls her best friends. She also appreciates Fairfield’s dedication to their student-athletes more than ever. She was given the resources, support and guidance she needed in order to thrive as a Stag student-athlete.
Being a “first-year” again, and the only foreign player on her Serbian team, Radulovic says that she has worked hard to prove herself. She attributes her time as a Stags captain both on and off the court as lessons that she carries with her as a professional. Last year, Radulovic wrote a “Letter to the Herd” thanking the Fairfield University community for an unforgettable four years. She discussed the importance of the volleyball team’s “Stags mentality.”
Radulovic said: “I have always loved a good challenge, and my new coach has praised my work ethic and discipline on multiple occasions at practice. That is directly reflective of the gym culture and ‘Stags mentality’ we established in the Fairfield Volleyball Program; a mindset that has stuck with me and helped get me to where I am today.”
“I would tell athletes that as long as they feel that way about their sport, they should cherish going to practice everyday, and try to play for as long as they can, at whatever level that may be,” Radulovic offered as a piece of advice for Fairfield Stags.
She detailed her future plans, saying, “I would love to keep playing volleyball as long as my body allows me to. I will put my Fairfield degree (International Business and Digital and Social Media Marketing) to good use one day, but I’m not ready to hang up my court shoes just yet.”
Radulovic seems to echo the same sentiment that she left with her fellow Stags in her ‘Letter to the Herd’: “If you are like me and this is the last of your Fairfield journey, remember you are always and forever a Stag. Trust that you are prepared for any path you decide to take, and that you will never walk it alone, because Stags are Built for Life.”
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