Girls Water Polo: Jackovich dominates way to Player of Year
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 14, 2012 10:52PM
Lincoln-Way Central’s Danijela Jackovich is the 2012 SouthtownStar Girls Water Polo Player of the Year.
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:07AM
With Lincoln-Way Central qualifying for state water polo for the first time, Danijela Jackovich got to show her skills on the big stage.
She made quite an impression.
Although the Knights fell 9-6 to New Trier in the quarterfinals, Jackovich did all she could, fighting off double and triple teams to score four goals and pulling off remarkable plays that had the crowd buzzing.
After the match, New Trier coach Matt Wendt called Jackovich “unbelievable.”
That’s an adjective Central coach Karen Desruisseaux has used a time or two herself.
In fact, Desruisseaux is running out of words to sum up just how dominant her star is.
“It’s really tough to put it into words,” Desruisseaux said. “Everyone knows about her. Everyone focuses their defense on her and she still has an impact on every game. Even when it’s not a good game by her standards, she still scores three or four goals.”
Jackovich finished the season, her junior campaign, with 150 goals and 78 assists. She scored or assisted on 67 percent of her team’s goals.
Her impact on the Knights’ historical season helped earn her the title of 2012 SouthtownStar Girls Water Polo Player of the Year.
“It’s just a great honor to be recognized for my hard work and dedication in the sport I love,” she said. “This season was amazing. It was everything I wanted.”
While Jackovich certainly has the ability to take games over when needed — something she demonstrated in more than a few key contests this season — she’s most proud of the progress of her teammates.
Jackovich was dominant in 2011, as well, but Central finished just 15-15 and did not win a playoff game.
This year, the Knights were 22-10 and captured their first sectional title, topping Homewood-Flossmoor 5-4 in a sectional championship game in which Jackovich scored four times.
“The thing I love most about water polo is the team aspect of it,” Jackovich said. “It’s not a single-man sport. You can’t carry the team on your back. My biggest thing was helping my team improve. We came so far this season.
“Winning the H-F game and making it to state was incredible. The last few seconds of that win were just amazing.”
If there’s one criticism about Jackovich thrown around by those close to the sport, it’s that she’s too unselfish.
“I’ve heard that a lot, too,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean anything to me to score 20 goals in a game. I’d rather get my teammates involved.
“If I get double- or triple-teamed, it doesn’t bother me too much because I know someone’s open.”
Jackovich’s abilities and her background in the sport — she’s spent five years in the Olympic Development Program and played last summer for the U.S. Youth National Team — have thrust her into a leadership role on the Knights from the time she was a freshman.
It’s a role in which she’s excelled, never more than this season.
“She’s still not a senior, but she’s certainly a team leader,” Desruisseaux said. “She’s like a coach in the pool.”
The future certainly appears bright for Jackovich, who likely will be able to choose just about any college water polo program in the country to play for when the time comes.
She also has one more season with the Knights ahead of her. With Central expected to return all but one starter from this season’s team, she hopes there’s more history to make.
“I just want to do the same thing again,” she said. “Next year, I want to make it back to state and do some damage.”