Coach of the Year: Micha Pavlovic

The Fresno BeeJanuary 5, 2012 

School: Clovis North

He's qualified because: The 26-year-old from Belgrade, Serbia, took over a program that had nine varsity players and no JV team in 2010 and led the Broncos to the Central Section Division II championship, capping a 17-17 season with a 12-8 victory over Golden West in the final.

Background: Started playing club water polo as a 7-year-old in his native Serbia. Landed in the San Joaquin Valley at 17 as a foreign exchange student at Atwater High. Moved on to play two years at Merced College and eventually two years at Fresno Pacific. Has been coaching age-group polo or swimming since he was in high school and spent last season as an assistant at Clovis East before being recruited to Clovis North by Broncos boys polo coach Fabrizio Lofaro, who also grew up in Europe.

Key moment: After going 0-10 during their first season in the powerful Tri-River Athletic Conference, Clovis North opened league play with a last-minute, 10-9 win over perennial power Buchanan. "After that game, I think everything kind of changed," Pavlovic said. "For them to win against a team they had been losing against, it changed their mind-set. They learned how to get together and improve."

Impact: Pavlovic helped grow program numbers to 11 varsity players and 17 JV players this season. There were 25 girls playing at feeder school Granite Ridge. And the residual benefits of winning the section title? Thirty players at both the high school and junior varsity level came out for the Broncos' winter training program. "That's what I enjoy the most, seeing the development and seeing the change in attitude in the program," Pavlovic said. "It's awesome."

Moving forward: With several key players returning -- including Katelyn Fairchild, Ashley Wilcox and Katie Henell, each a first-team All-Valley D-I selection -- Pavlovic wants the Broncos to turn their attention toward competing for TRAC and Division I titles as the program continues to grow. "We love the fact we won, but we know the job is not done," Pavlovic said. "Definitely this was a big first step forward to future goals we want to accomplish."

The reporter can be reached at nickg@fresnobee.com or (559) 622-2407.

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