Four years ago, Lisa Jablonowski arrived on Grounds in a brand-new environment. After being named Sportswoman of the Year in her native Luxembourg, she crossed the Atlantic and joined the Cavaliers. Now, four years later, Jablonowski stands with just three more games inside John Paul Jones Arena.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Jablonowski said of her four years. “Especially with the coaching changes and just the different teams that we’ve had, year-to-year was just a whole new experience, something completely different.”
After primarily coming off the bench in her first two seasons, Jablonowski has been a fixture in the starting lineup the past two years. She’s also been a picture of consistency, averaging better than seven points per game and five rebounds over her junior and senior seasons. This year, Jablonowksi is averaging a career-best 7.6 points per game in a career-high 32 minutes.
The improvement is indicative of what Jablonowski says was one of the best parts of her Virginia experience.
“Overall, I would say the growth that I’ve done from my first day to my fourth year is crazy,” Jablonowski said. “I don’t think that at any other institution, I would have had a chance to grow in that way, especially because UVA academically, it’s challenging and then also you’re just surrounded by good people. So, everybody kind of helps you to grow into the new person that you kind of have to be, year, after year, after year, after year. I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had here.”
On the court, Jablonowski has plenty of good memories to smile about. Ask her for her favorite games and she instantly lights up.
“Definitely the NCAA tournament was something that was just amazing,” she said. “When we went to South Carolina and played our first game, we had our own expectations but nobody else really had expectations for us because we were kind of the underdog and then we won our first game, which was amazing. Then, we had a really close game against South Carolina where like the entire gym, like 16,000 people were booing against us and it was a close game.
“Just being in those kind of games is why came to Virginia in general. So, that’s certainly one of my favorites and then I always have to go back to our freshman year against Louisville at home when Nikki hit the buzzer beater in order to get us into overtime against Louisville. I know we lost that game in the end but it was just so intense and so much excitement, and it is a game that I really like to look back on.”
We asked Jablonowski to try to put into words what her UVA experience has given her. The veteran touched on her aforementioned growth, both on and off the court, the lasting friendships with teammates but also noted an appreciation for the support and platform afforded to her.
“Another thing that I can say about what was given to me, just in general, is the appreciation for sports, because that’s something that wasn’t really as big at home,” Jablonowski said. “More than as a student athlete, or just in general as an athlete, how much of like a platform we have. I’m always impressed by how many people come out, all the fans that show up no matter how good or how bad we play. And just like realizing that you’re a role model to a lot of people has widened my horizons; knowing the impact that I can have on other people, whether it is by volunteering or just being on the court. That’s something that I’m also very grateful for.”
Over the past four years, Jablonowski says, UVA has become a home away from home, a second family to a girl who traveled over 4,000 miles to play the game she loves.
“Charlottesville and UVA will always have a special place in my heart and I will always gladly come back.”