By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
Anabela and Darija Sataric have a lot in common.
Both grew up together playing volleyball. Both share a positive, healthy competitive spirit. Both traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to get a college education as student athletes in the United States.
But there’s one difference now between the two: they play for rival universities.
While older sister Darija, a senior outside hitter, made the trek in 2010 from their native Switzerland to play for Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Anabela, a freshman setter, decided to go 57 miles south to play for FIU.
Their collegiate volleyball careers are set to collide Friday, Oct. 18, when the Owls visit the Panthers at the U.S. Century Bank Arena for the first of two meetings this season at 6 p.m. The occasion will mark the first time they have played each other in a meaningful match.
But there’s no family feud between them. They still love each other, bound together by blood and volleyball, fiercely loyal to one another and the sport they play.
“She’s the older sister who always took care of me,” Anabela said. “When I’m on the court and she’s on the court, we’re going to know what each of us is going to do. It’s going to be interesting.”
A NEW JOURNEY
It was the encouragement of Darija and the example that she set at FAU that helped Anabela make her decision to follow in her footsteps, albeit in a slightly different direction.
For the Satarics, choosing to come to the United States offered them the opportunity to get an education while still playing volleyball. In Switzerland, collegiate volleyball is not the norm.
“It’s great how university and volleyball work together here,” said Anabela, who plans to major in economics or business. “My sister really enjoyed it, and she’s developed her skills a lot. I wanted the same thing.”
Their journey to the U.S. also provided an opportunity for them to travel and embark on new adventures in an unfamiliar place, something that’s proved both exciting and rewarding.
“That’s part of what drew us to come here. We wanted to come and explore,” Darija said. “For some, moving to a new continent, a new country, is a horrific thought. For us it was a chance to get to know something new. You meet so many new people through volleyball and you get to see so many places. The game really helps you grow as a person.”
While Darija’s skills on the court were being sharpened and developed under her coaches, her skills in the arena of life were being put to the test as well.
Everything from learning how to acquire a driver’s license to setting up an Internet connection was a challenge that needed to be faced – and facing them has helped prepare her for life after college and to help her younger sister get through those first few months of transition.
“I became very independent as a person during my time here,” said Darija, an international business major. “I learned how things work and I thought I would be able to help her with those things that we normally don’t think about. I wanted to help her with things that I struggled with when I first got here.”
When Anabela first arrived over the summer, Darija helped her shop for items that would be essential for dorm life at FIU and also imparted some wisdom: Don’t be late for practice or class. Always put forth your maximum effort in every area of college life.
One piece of advice that stood out to Anabela is one that athletes at all levels would be wise to follow.
“Always be on the good side with the coach,” Anabela recalled. “If I was good with the coach I would be able to handle everything else.”
Her hard work and effort has definitely put her in good standing with FIU Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett, earning significant playing time over the course of the season so far.
A selfless approach to the game along with her willingness to learn both on and off the court have made her stand out in Buck-Crockett’s eyes. So far this season, Anabela is second on the team in assists with 221 and has 77 digs on the defensive side.
“She’s part of the future of our offense, and we’ve asked a lot of her,” Buck-Crockett said. “You can tell she only wants the best for anyone that she knows and she is always positive. She’s just a joy to coach.”
A HAPPY REUNION
When the two in-state rival schools face each other Oct. 18, it will mark the first time they have seen each other since July since both players have been preoccupied with preseason training, practices, classes and the regular season. (The two sisters have mostly kept in contact through phone calls and Face Time.) They’re both looking forward to seeing each other and earning bragging rights — at least until they meet again in Boca Raton on Nov. 12.
“It’ll be fun,” Anabela laughed.
Admission for FIU students is free to all athletic events and all in attendance can purchase a raffle ticket to enter to win special prizes and help support breast cancer awareness as part of the Play Pink initiative.