Club (“SK”) Hrvatski Dragovoljac is founded on
December 15, 1996 as a sports organization of the Union of
Croatian Volunteers of the Homeland War, at the initiative of
relatives who are members of the Union. The main goal was to
gather children to participate in sports activities and also
to further develop the sport of softball in the Republic of
Croatia. The team which spearheaded this initiative included
Messrs. Knezek, Zimet, Trut and Pavlovic.
first season in which the club started play was in 1997. The
coach of the new team was Maurice Marnika, a Canadian of
Croatian background. In the Croatian league the team finished
in the seventh and final spot . It achieved an important
victory against Medvednica and managed to finish in third
place for the Croatia Cup tournament. This was a good result
owing to the new beginning and lack of
experienced players. All of the games were played at
the Dugave field behind the “Octagon”.The players
that were part of the Dragovoljac team that season included:
Wery first team members
Petra Abramović, Sandra Barbir, Dunja Bonacci, Adela Čujko,
Iva Đaković, Edina Fajković, Željka Grubor, Tajana Habun,
Lea Juraić, Ivana Jurković, Anica Knezek, Ivana Kovač, Biserka
Krezo, Latica Krznarić, Zrinka Kvakan, Andreja Levačić, Mateja
Leščan, Petra Panić, Matea Panić, Ivana Pemper, Maja Šimrak,
Mira Šimrak, Maja Trut.
the Croatia Cup games and the tournaments organized by Princ
and Vindija, Pamela Taluto and Maja Belamaric from the
United States also played with Dragovoljac.
At the beginning of the season the team shifted its
diamond to the playing field behind St. Matthew's Church in
Dugave. That year the team finished in fifth place in the
Croatian league and in second place in the Croatia Cup. This
provided the team with a berth in the European Cup the
As Princ Dugave won the Croatian league in 1997 as well as
the Croatia Cup, Dragovoljac's third place finish in 1997
provided the opportunity to play in the 1998 European
First field in Dugave
Cup in Almere, Netherlands (http://www.almere90.nl),
which was the first chance for the team to taste international
As Coach Marnika returned to Canada following the 1997
season, coaches Branko Hudin and Ivica Horvat led the squad
through the 1998 season.
Although the coaches and the players were not fully seasoned,
they gained a tremendous amount of experience through the
The team in Almere consisted of: Petra Abramović, Adela
Čujko, Iva Đaković, Željka Grubor, Tajana Habun, Lea Juraić,
Jelena Kolimbatović, Ivana Kovač, Andreja Levačić, Maja Mijatović,
Matea Panić, Ivana Pemper, Maja Šimrak, Mira Šimrak i Maja Trut.
At the beginning of the 1999 season, a new coach took over
SK Hrvatski Dragovoljac. His name was Jason Lipskomb, and he
was a young American with both a playing and coaching
The team participated in the Cup of Cups in
Prague, Czech Republic from September 13-20, 1999 at the
diamonds of «Sokol KRC» Baseball and Softball Club
The team won its first international game against the Bristol
Blaze from Great Britain. With the help of Dutch player
Johanna Smit, Dragovoljac won by a
Johanna at bat
of 6:5. Johanna was also named the best hitter and best
pitcher in that tournament. The team finished in seventh place
out of nine teams, and with a little bit of luck could have
placed even higher – as all of the results were quite
Owing to university and high school obligations it was
difficult to assemble a full squad for practices and games
that year.The players that went to the Czech Republic included: Petra Abramović, Željka Grubor,
Tajana Habun, Lejla Husedµinović, Lea Juraić, Ivana Kovač, Andreja
Levačić, Matea Panić, Ivana Pemper, Johanna Smit i Maja Trut.
the year 2000 3 new players joined Dragovoljac: Kristina Uroic,
the best catcher in Croatia, Branka Bilandzija, the best
pitcher in Croatia and Ana-Marija Tomic, an outfielder. The
addition of these players had a positive impact on the team
and on the respective game results. Dragovoljac finished
second in the Croatian league; second in the Interliga; and
in a tough series against Princ the team finished first
in the Croatia Cup.
In the toughest but most successful year since the founding of
the club the following players were part of Dragovoljac:
Branka Bilandžija, Lejla Husedžµinović, Ivana
Jurković, Ivana Kovač, Matea Panić, Ivana Pemper, Tena Rajković
Wilhelm, Ana Marija Tomić, Maja Trut i Kristina Uroić.
season also saw an attempt made at forming a men’s
In the spring of 2000, a number of players from Maksimir and
Gorica took part including:Zvono, Uva, Ratko, Joža, Malacko,
Kosta, Žbulj, Marac, Kum, Kuki, Aljoša, Dugi, Cena, Vučko
guys worked hard at practice each time out and saw this as a
good opportunity to get in some exercise and to also socialize.
After awhile the team became quite good but did not have any
real opposition to play against. They played a number of inter-squad
exhibition games for a few months but this was pretty much it.
A number of the players opted to play baseball the following
2001 the players that were originally with the team stopped
playing with Dragovoljac. In addition, Matea Panic transferred
to Princ. In the interim, Dragovoljac was able to acquire
excellent players in Zeljana Colovic from Nada Split and Fedra
Grenjo from Olimpija Karlovac. The coaching staff was
strengthened with the arrival of Hrvoje Knezek. The team's
Executive Committee transferred team headquarters to a new
location and the club's diamond was shifted to Srednjaci at
the Faculty of Physical Education. During this season the team
finished in second place in the Croatian league, and in the
final spot in the Croatia Cup.
Opening ceremony in Ronchi dei Leghionari
In September 2001 the team participated in the European Cup
Winners Cup in Ronchi dei Leghionari, Italy (http://www.web.tiscali.it/peanuts).
and school obligations forced the team to take on some
additional players for the Cup. Marijana Prodan and Maja
Taseva from Nada joined the squad as did Mojca Smode from
Medvednica. Dragovoljac finished in sixth
place in the Cup and would have likely finished higher if the
Dutch players Johanna Smit and Eveline de Rover were allowed
to play for the team.
In addition to the above-mentioned players, the team that went
to Ronchi also consisted of the following players:Željana Colović, Fedra Grenjo,
Lejla Husedžinović, Lea Juraić, Ivana Jurković, Maja Trut i
the beginning of the season the team had 10 rookie players who
it was hoped would form the new nucleus of Dragovoljac.
Unfortunately, only one player remained. The team was able to
attract some interest from children living near the diamond
and held a number of “softball training sessions”
to introduce them to the sport.
spite of great efforts the team did not have many successes
this season. Dragovoljac finished in 3rd place in
all Croatian competitions and could not assemble a complete
squad for the Inter-League finals.The
team did have one notable success when it beat Princ by a
score of 4-3 at the beginning of the season.
Winners vs. Princ
tough year the following players were part of Dragovoljac:Branka Bilandžija, Fedra
Grenjo, Lejla Husedžinović, Lea Juraić, Željana Colović, Ivana
Jurković, Danijela Petrušić, Petra Juraja, Maja Matković,
Ivana Pemper, Maja Trut i Kristina Uroic.