Dara Peric couldn’t stop smiling.
But when she looked around the room at her teammates, the expressions on their faces were a bit different.
The Serbian women’s volleyball team competed in the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro, earning a silver medal. That medal run included a win in the semifinals against the United States.
Peric, a Serbia native and one of the Owls’ junior outside hitters watched the five-set match with some of her teammates, who were mostly cheering for the United States.
After Serbia clinched the final set with a two-point victory, Peric celebrated her home country’s win, while her United States’ teammates sulked after their country’s loss.
“This is a sense of pride that I’ve always tried to have,” Peric said. “I think [sophomore Iva Deak] has it too because not everybody actually knows where Serbia, or Croatia is, they still think I’m from Russia or something.”
“And for us to compete on the international stage gives me a lot of pride,” Peric added. “And it was just an acknowledgement that [Serbia] can play volleyball on the same level, or even better than teams like [Brazil and the United States].”
Coming to the United States from a different country can be tough for anyone. At Temple, Peric is about 4,600 miles away from her home in Belgrade, Serbia. But over the summer Peric was able to feel at home while she watched the Olympics.
Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam has noticed extra pep in Peric’s step since the Serbia victory. He could see what it meant for her, and even the other international players, to see teams competing and beating the United States. The United States is the only nation to medal in beach or indoor volleyball at every Olympics since 1984.
“You could see she was smiling more the few days after the match [versus the United States],” Ganesharatnam said. “It was a pretty big deal for her, and for her pride and joy in her country.”
The silver medal in the Olympics moved Serbia from sixth to third in the world, according to International Federation of Volleyball.
Peric said she made sure to not let the win get to her head. She knew that her teammates are a part of her extended family, and didn’t want to seem disrespectful.
“I wouldn’t call it bragging rights going around here,” Peric said. “It’s been more of a joke going around being able to have the pride I do, and overall it’s just been fun.”
Being busy with practice, Peric was not able to watch every game. But she made the most of the games she could watch, taking away as much as she could.
“I was only able to watch four games, but I was able to learn a couple of small things to help my game,” Peric said. “It is a little weird, watching them because they’re professionals, and we try to act like we are too.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.