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Bright futures ahead for sophomore athletes

Misia Krasowski '13 and water polo player Svetozar Stefanovic '13 arrived at Brown last fall as talented athletes, excited to help their respective teams. What the two did not expect was just how influential they would end up being.

Both athletes were honored May 5 at the second-annual Senior Celebration and Awards Banquet as the most outstanding first-year athletes at Brown. Krasowski received the Kate Silver '86 Award and Stefanovic was awarded the Joe Paterno '50 Award.


Serving up an ace

"I know how many great athletes there are at this school, so I was really flattered and honored," Krasowski said.

When Krasowski arrived at Brown last fall as the tennis team's lone recruit, she expected Brown to offer a great experience, and her expectations were fulfilled.

"I was the only freshman, so it's kind of different than most situations," she said. "But I felt like I was welcomed completely, and right away I was part of the team."

She hit it off with her older teammates, who were ready and willing to help her both academically and athletically. Up to the challenge, she vaulted to the No. 3 singles spot and finished the season with an impressive 23-13 record overall. With her help, the team was able to post a 16-8 record on the year.

The team is like a family, Krasowski said, and because of the amount of time they spend together on road trips and during practices, they become extremely close.

"It's nice having so many girls you see around campus that you know," she said. "There's a level of understanding, being so busy, having to balance school and sports."

Krasowski excelled as a member of the team and put the team ahead of herself when she spoke about the best moments of last year. When No. 66 Brown played No. 32 William and Mary, the Bears came away with a 4-3 victory thanks in part to Krasowski's straight-set win.

"I think this match was a big step for our team because of the attitude that we had during the match," she wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "Beating that team showed us that we could compete with other highly ranked teams as long as we continue to work hard and have the right attitude."

In addition to her team-first mindset, her teammates and coaches praised her work ethic.

"Misia was a great addition to our team both on and off the court," teammate Casey Herzberg '12 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "She is incredibly talented, enthusiastic, and hard working, and without a doubt was a huge part of our team's success last year."

Head Coach Paul Wardlaw echoed this sentiment.

"Besides being an excellent player, she is the most responsible member on a very responsible team — she requests extra hitting sessions on a weekly basis, already one of my all-time best listeners, is consistently ten minutes early, volunteers for any duties needed or requested, is a top host and recruiter, and is always in a good mood with a smile on her face," Wardlaw wrote in an e-mail to the Herald.

While teams like tennis and water polo do not receive the same kind of attention as other Brown sports, Krasowski doesn't mind. She just likes to work hard and she loves what she does. For her, being a student at Brown has been one of the most rewarding things about being a collegiate athlete.

"I've met so many interesting people that all have so many unique characteristics about them that I feel like I just couldn't get at a different school."


No. 1 at two-meter

Stefanovic, the recipient of the men's award, had an equally positive experience in his first year at Brown. Before choosing Brown, Stefanovic —  a native of Belgrade, Serbia —  had made the decision to choose academics over professional water polo.

"I did a lot of research about schools in the U.S. and when I saw the water polo program was really good, I chose Brown, because it is an Ivy League institution," he said. "I hadn't been to the United States before I came here."

Coming from a country that currently holds the world championship in water polo, Stefanovic quickly became one of the Bears' most valuable assets. He finished the season as the nation's third-leading scorer and broke a Brown scoring record that had stood for 26 years. Having helped the Bears to their first Collegiate Water Polo Association Northern Championship since 1993, he was also named an Honorable Mention All-American and the Northern Division MVP at season's end.

For Stefanovic, the best part about the season was not the accolades, but the team's clinching match against Fordham, when they won the Northern Championship. Stefanovic's two goals helped propel the team to an 8-7 win.

"It was probably the best game of the previous season," he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Head Coach Felix Mercado credited Stefanovic for excelling at the two-meter, or center, position.

"The craziest thing about his season last year was that he was the leading scorer in Division 1 and the 3rd overall from a position that is easily double-teamed," Mercado wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Mercado also praised Stefanovic's attitude.

"The best part about Sveta is that while he is a very talented water polo player, he is a better teammate," he wrote.

Stefanovic said he enjoyed being part of the team.

"I really liked my first year,"  Stefanovic said. "Not only because I had a good experience with water polo itself, but I also really like my relationship with my teammates and my coaching staff. And the whole atmosphere of being a student-athlete is great."

To be on a team without a true home-court advantage — or home-pool advantage, in this case — is something that he and his teammates have to battle. It becomes very demanding to keep up with schoolwork while spending so much time away from campus, he said.

"Academically, I always try to have a high GPA. I really enjoy classes at Brown," wrote Stefanovic, an economics and international relations double concentrator. "I am also thinking about studying abroad next year, as I am interested in programs in the UK."

Stefanovic acknowledged that juggling athletics and schoolwork is a challenge, but added that there are also some benefits.

"I like traveling and seeing new places," he said. "We travel to California every year. ... The chance to play with California water polo teams was of great significance because the water polo there is on a high level."

Stefanovic added that the team is looking strong this year, and he's anticipating the competition against West Coast teams like Santa Clara University and the University of California at Davis. "We can win lots of games against them," he said. "Our team goal is to win the Eastern Championships and play at the NCAA Final Four tournament."

Even though the new aquatics center is not set to be completed until spring 2012, Stefanovic is just happy to call himself a Brunonian.

"I have to say I like everything about Brown," he said. "Except maybe the weather."



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