Tina Manojlovic: A Force to be Reckoned With

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Kristina (center), with Nikoleta (left), Sasha (right), and the sisters’ parents.

By Gloria Kosir, Feature's Editor

There are two sounds constantly stuck in sophomore Kristina Manojlovic‘s head: the rhythmic whack of tennis balls against rackets and the resonating echo of hands spiking volleyballs and sneakers squeaking on the court floor. Kristina, who’s played tennis since she was 7 years old and volleyball since she was in the 6th grade, was looking forward to playing another season on the girls’ varsity volleyball team this year. Unfortunately, the volleyball season has been postponed this year, but she was gifted the opportunity to start playing tennis again.

Kristina has two sisters at Niles West, Sasha and Nikoleta Manojlovic, and this year was a really special one for them. “When I chose volleyball, I thought I would never be on the same team as my sister for tennis, and that I would never get the opportunity to play for the school. COVID allowed this to happen, and I actually really enjoyed it. I find it interesting to believe that a team could have all three siblings be on the same team,” Kristina said. It was the three sisters’ mother’s dream to see her daughters play tennis on the same varsity-level team, and because of COVID-19, Kristina was able to put her school volleyball career on hold. 

“Playing with my sisters was weird at first because I was so used to being on my own and my teammates but over time they started to fit in and definitely kept everyone on their toes, especially Tina. Tina has a side she only shows to people when she’s comfortable with them and she was able to show that side with our whole team, including our coaches. She never fails to make us laugh or smile even when she’s down,” Sasha said.

“[Playing tennis with Tina and Niki] did change our relationship with others. With Abby, it was like having another sister, once there were 3 and now there are 4,” Sasha said.

Kristina is beyond grateful that she was able to experience playing tennis for West, especially because of all the new connections she’s made and people she’s met. She introduced herself to junior Abby Penados at tryouts, and they’ve been inseparable since.

“This season with Kristina has definitely been one of my favorites. She played an important role on the team, by bringing happiness on the court, instantly brightening the mood at every practice, and of course she had a great record to her season. It was surprising how easy it was to get along with her and the more I got to know her, the more I realized how kind-hearted she was. As a 2-sport varsity athlete and a straight-A student, she’s one of the hardest working people on and off the court and I seriously don’t know how she does it,” Penados said.

Volleyball is Kristina’s favorite sport. She began to play in the fall of her sixth grade year for her middle school team. A light was sparked inside of her after playing for Fairview, and it wasn’t until her father asked her if she wanted to further her training that she realized it.

My dad saw that there was something in me where volleyball just seemed to be my sport. He asked me if I wanted to try out for a club, and us not being so sure whether I was going to continue after this year, I joined Velocity. I made the top team in this club and I was always looking forward to every practice. As the days would near, I would get this excitement in my stomach and just couldn’t wait to get out there on the court,” Kristina said. 

Since then, Kristina’s been playing for MOD Volleyball Club, formerly called D1. Last year, Kristina was pulled up as a freshman to play on the girls’ varsity volleyball team. All of her training and hours at hard work have been paying off, and as of right now, Kristina doesn’t intend on stopping after high school.

“I plan on playing in college, but along with that comes a lot of hard work and practice,” Kristina said. She’s been hustling now though, preparing herself for the busy future she wants as a collegiate athlete and nursing major. This tennis season, Kristina would make the race getting home from tennis, getting ready for volleyball, and then making it to her second sports practice of the day on time up to three times a week. Kristina doesn’t get stressed out by playing two seasons at once, however. In fact, quite the contrary.

The two sports don’t really stress me out, they are actually my stress relievers. It’s nice to have something to do outside of school that I actually enjoy doing. It helps me get my mind off of school, and really makes me focus on improving on a specific skill in the sport,” Kristina said. That’s what keeps Kristina going – knowing she can always improve on something. 

Just like every other sport, it takes a long time to master a skill, but it takes a while to get to where you want to be,” Kristina said. 

“Tina is the same on and off the court. She is head-strong, determined, passionate, and ambitious. She never fails to say something stupid that will have everyone giggling, she dances on the court, she makes you laugh so hard you can’t even stand. She brings an energy on and off the court that is contagious. If she’s happy, you’re happy, if she’s upset, you’re upset. Tina is the energy I never knew we needed,” Sasha said.