The newest member of the UTRGV volleyball coaching staff is a familiar face to Head Coach Todd Lowery. Graduate Assistant Danica Markovic, who has worked with Lowery since 2010, was a four-year member of the team he coached at the University of Texas Brownsville.
In her time on the team, Markovic became the all-time program leader in kills, aces, attacks and sets played. She also led the team to two National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships, in 2011 and 2013, earning the tournament MVP both times. She was named NAIA National Player of the Year in the second championship season.
Two years removed from their last championship, Markovic and Lowery are seemingly reunited in their new digs. In reality, there was never a break between the player and coach’s relationship, just a change in roles.
Markovic is no longer able to play under Lowery. In 2014, in Brownsville, she moved into an assistant role, helping coach the UTB team when not occupied with competing as a cross-country runner and attending classes. In her first year transitioning into a coaching role she helped Lowery’s team to a 34-5 season and reached another NAIA championship match.
While still a graduate student, studying early childhood education, Markovic is no longer a cross-country runner this year and will have more time in the gym with the team.
“[Last year] she helped us out when she could,” Lowery said. “This year she’s a lot more involved in the planning of practice and the watching of films, those kind of things. So we have her for a few more hours than a year ago.”
Lowery emphasized the benefits of Markovic’s experience and familiarity with his own style of work.
“The good thing about having her on our staff is she knows what I expect in the gym,” Lowery said. “She can convey that to the kids, how we expect to do things. Someone that’s really been through it and been through it recently and knows what it takes to get to that next level. She has that mentality and she can help the girls develop that kind of mentality.”
Markovic, a native of Subotica, Serbia, is working toward a master’s in education and will not travel with the team. However, she believes she will still be able to contribute a great deal.
“It’s stressful, but they say once you do something you love, you don’t ever have to work,” she said. “To me, it is a great challenge but, for me, I take it in a positive way. Everything that is a challenge for me I try to be the best at it. It is not easy but it is definitely manageable.”
Markovic points to her time coaching at UTB last year as a key to being able to jump into the fray as an assistant for UTRGV.
“It was nice to be on the sideline with Coach Lowery,” the four-time NAIA all-American said. “We developed this relationship over the course of four years so we can succeed on the court. With the new program, it’s a lot of challenge and people expect from you, but since it’s the first year of the program, it’s gonna take some time to get to where we wanna be.”
Choosing a favorite part of the new position wasn’t easy for Markovic.
“Anything about volleyball is my favorite I would say,” she said. “I guess tactical stuff. I like that. When we worked on technique over the course of my career, I learned proper technique. So, if I see something that the girls are not doing right or they don’t have the proper footwork, I would like to correct that because I think that’s one of my strongest abilities in volleyball.”
Markovic and Lowery will continue to try to improve the team and lead it in the inaugural season of UTRGV.
The conference season begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as the Vaqueros take on the New Mexico State University Aggies, the defending conference champions.