Ella Mihacevich has a knack for finding opportunities. The NIU volleyball junior setter changed majors, got an internship and competed overseas midway through her third year as a Huskie.
Mihacevich has proven his ability to excel on court and in the classroom. The junior has been named to the College of Business Dean’s List in each of the past two semesters. Mihacevich was one of four volleyball players to earn a 4.0 GPA in the spring of 2022.
“Since I was growing up, my parents have held me to a very high standard,” Mihacevich said. “All the positive pressure… They want us to be the best we can be in school, in sports and in life.”
From physics enthusiast to number breaker
Mihacevich’s first year of classes at NIU was asynchronous after the COVID-19 pandemic forced teaching to an online format.
“I just didn’t feel like I learned anything from my freshman year that broke my heart because I have such a passion for calculus and physics,” Mihacevich said. “You don’t see that every day, especially as a girl.”
Mihacevich made the decision after his freshman year to switch from biomedical engineering to accounting.
“I love numbers,” Mihacevich said. “I took accounting classes in high school. I knew it was something I loved. My grandmother is the accountant for the family business.
The Mihacevich family owns a packaging business that began in their grandparents’ basement in 1987. The business, named M-Line, sells bubble wrap, cardboard boxes and other products packaging.
An unforgettable summer
During the summer, Mihacevich had the opportunity to gain professional experience abroad.
Mihacevich said she plans to be a trainee risk management consultant at Crowe LLP, an accounting firm, for the summer of 2022 before Gooden makes her an offer. Gooden contacted Mihacevich last winter to offer him the opportunity to play overseas in Europe over the summer, sponsored by Bring It USA.
Mihacevich worked with Gooden and Crowe LLP so she could complete both programs over the summer.
“Honesty, on my side, and cooperation on Crowe’s side, kind of worked together,” Mihacevich said.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Mihacevich said. “Getting on the plane and flying around the world basically to go and play volleyball with nobody I knew was really daunting. But it was just an amazing and definitely life-changing experience. Career Change , same.
Mihacevich’s trip ended with favorable results. His team won a gold medal during the competition.
A tight-knit hall of setters
The setter position at NIU means more to head coach Ray Gooden as he played the same position during his college years at Ohio State University.
“I know anyone who plays the executive role here, there’s such a level of expectation, mainly because, probably because of me,” Gooden said.
This season’s squad has two setters: Mihacevich and second Sophie Hurt. Although they are few in number, their camaraderie is anything but small, according to Gooden.
“The setter room works really well with each other, and they work hard for each other,” Gooden said. “Relationships are so important. They are each other’s biggest supporters.
Work hard and play hard
Grace Balensiefer, Mihacevich’s former teammate and current setter at Purdue University, described Mihacevich as a fun, outgoing person.
“She’s so much fun,” Balensiefer said. “She is very outgoing. We have this thing called the “Ella dance” every time we go out with our friends. She would know what I’m talking about, the whole team would know what I’m talking about.
Hurt added that Mihacevich also knows how to be a focused competitor in practices and games.
“She’s very calm and works very, very hard,” Hurt said of Mihacevich. “I would say she can have a lot of fun, but also be really serious and really focused on the practices. It’s really fun to play with her for both of those aspects, having fun and celebrating, but also really being locked in and working on what we need to do.
When Mihacevich isn’t preparing her teammates to make plays on the ball, she finds ways to help improve team chemistry.
“She always tries to hang out with the team or go to Starbucks before a game to instill those traditions and build friendships within the team,” Balensiefer said. “Making everyone cohesive on the team because that’s what makes a volleyball team great is having good relationships outside of volleyball. You play so much better when you’re closer outside of volleyball, and that kind of translates to the court.
Mihacevich and the Huskies (13-4, 6-1 MAC) will test their cohesion when they take on Ball State University (12-6, 4-2 MAC) for a two-game series. Games will be played at 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at Victor E. Court.