Last season was a banner one for the Terriers of St. Francis as they defeated Air Force 14-8 to capture third place at NCAAs. This was the first ever win for St. Francis at the tournament and they did it with style. This season's squad looks to build on that as they return a number of key contributors.
One noticeable change from last year's team is the arrival of Coach Srdjan Mihaljevic who will be replacing Coach Igor Samardzija. Mihaljevic graduated from St. Francis in 2001 and has served as the Assistant Women's Coach at St. Francis since graduation. I caught up with him to discuss his squad and below is our interview.
St. Francis will once again be a favorite to win the East. What do your Terriers need to do to get back to the Final Four?
As everybody knows, defending the championship is always more difficult than winning it the first time. Therefore, we will need a maximal effort from the whole team throughout the season in order to repeat the last year success. Certainly, the team has the potential to do this and we are not running away from the role of being one of the favorites. However, I expect the league to be more competitive this year and it will take much hard work, good poise between our offensive and defensive game, as well as some luck in order for us to get back to the NCAA Final Four this year.
Can you describe the offensive style that you anticipate playing? I thought under Coach Samardzija, St. Francis had developed into being a team that could swim and score on the counter which was a change from the St. Francis teams I remember playing against.
There will not be much change in our style this year versus how we played last year or in the years before for that matter. While we graduated two players with Marko Gencic being a particularly tough loss, the core of the team stayed the same. We will certainly look to have a strong transition game to put pressure on our opponents right from the get go and then follow up with an active presence in the half court to draw as much six on five and second shot opportunities as possible. Coach Samardzija did a great job the last several years. I'm not planning to reinvent the wheel.
Igor Mladenovic is one of the top goalies in the country and should anchor your defense this fall. What makes him so great between the pipes?
Igor's game speaks for itself. He is a very explosive and active goalie, with a great innate talent and strong work ethics. In addition, he is a fierce competitor which helps him to demonstrate and maintain his skill set on such a high level. So, a great movement and quick hands, an excellent understanding of the game and championship mentality is what makes Igor a great asset for our team and one of the best goalies in the country.
Bosko Stankovic is an outstanding player who returns to lead your offense. What makes him the All-American performer that he is?
Similarly to Igor, Bosko is also a relentless competitor with a winning mentality, hard work ethic and innate talents. He has an excellent two-meter technique, which presents a challenge for any defender. But more than that, it is his drive and passion for the game that sets him a part. Bosko will always find a way to help his team.
I checked your roster and did not see any freshmen listed. Do you have any newcomers for this fall and what will be your recruiting philosophy?
As I mentioned before, we did not graduate many players so our recruiting needs were not great for this season. Having said that, we did bring in a Hungarian utility player Andras Kovascz and a back up goalie from Serbia Aleksandar Gavric. Additionally,during this last spring semester 3 other players (Lazar Komadinic - transfer, Ilija Djuretic - freshman from Serbia and Nathan Kotylak - transfer from Canada) already started attending SFC and will see playing time this coming fall. I expect great things from all them, as I do from any new recruit looking to come to SFC: talents inside and outside of the pool, team player mentality, hard work ethic and an unquenching desire to succeed.
With that our interview ended. St. Francis will be a heavy favorite in the CWPA North and is the likeliest team to emerge from the pack at Easterns. This team is loaded and it will be interesting to see if they can improve upon last seasons' showing.