Girls Water Polo: Lincoln-Way Central’s Danijela Jackovich the SouthtownStar 2013 Player of the Year
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 4, 2013 9:40PM
Lincoln-Way Central's Danijela Jackovich. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 6, 2013 6:17AM
How good was Danijela Jackovich at the end of her high school career?
The most-asked question at the state tournament wasn’t who the best player in the pool was. It was whether Jackovich is the best ever girls water polo player from Illinois.
That’s debatable, though the Lincoln-Way Central star — with a scholarship to Stanford and experience playing for the United States Youth National Team — certainly has the credentials.
Something that required little debate, on the other hand, was the title of 2013 SouthtownStar Girls Water Polo Player of the Year.
Jackovich, who scored 179 goals, had 141 steals and led the Knights to a state runner-up finish, earned the honor for the second straight year.
She also was named the state’s top player in voting done by coaches for Illinois Water Polo’s All-State teams.
“It’s quite an honor,” she said. “There are a lot of great players in the state and it meant a lot to be recognized that way.”
A standout since her freshman year, Jackovich scored 598 goals for the Knights in her career — a state record.
“Danijela was always a pleasure for four years,” Central coach Karen Desruisseaux said. “She improved her game every year. She’s a selfless player who truly cares about the game and her teammates.”
At state, Jackovich went out in style.
She scored eight goals in a quarterfinal win over Loyola and eight more in the state championship game loss to St. Ignatius.
In between, she scored three times and helped set up her teammates in an 8-7 semifinal win over Mundelein.
“She is so good,” St. Ignatius’ Becky Insalaco said of Jackovich after the title game. “She is so tough to stop.”
Jackovich certainly has put Lincoln-Way Central water polo on the map, but she hopes it goes beyond that.
“I think people will look at not just Lincoln-Way Central, but teams from the south suburbs in general in a different light going forward,” she said. “We were representing the whole of the south suburbs.”
Indeed, increasing the level of play of south suburban water polo has been something of a mission for Jackovich.
“It’s very important to me,” she said. “Growing up, I had to go to the west suburbs or to the Windy City club — that’s where a lot of the kids from Fenwick and schools around there go — to get good development. It was a 45-minute drive. I want kids over here to have the same great chances I did.”
In addition to her skills in the pool, Jackovich was the Class of 2013 valedictorian at Central, posting a 5.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. She plans to study biomedical engineering at Stanford.
She leaves behind quite a legacy at the New Lenox school.
“I hope people remember me as a team player,” she said. “Someone who was hard working and dedicated. I hope people say, ‘She was a team leader, and someone I want to be like.’ ”
Jackovich said her ultimate goal is to represent the United States at the highest level of international competition.
“My dream is to be a member of the senior national team,” she said. “Hopefully, I can play in the Olympics some day.”