By Jordan Shim —
When highly touted freshman Emina Ekic came to the University of Louisville, a lot of buzz went through the women’s soccer program. The Louisville native was the 10th best 17-and-under player in the country and gained a wealth of experience at the international level. Ekic came ready for college soccer and immediately put her name into first team selection conversation.
A local product, she was already familiar with the program and committed to join coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes during her freshman year at duPont Manual High School.
“I grew up here so I knew what the program was and what it became to be,” Ekic said. “When I visited, the stadium wasn’t even built yet. It was still a construction site. So I was really excited to see what it would be. The team was doing well, and I just loved growing up here and having friends and family come to watch me play.”
When Jill Vetere transferred to Cincinnati after last season, it was coincidental that the number 10 role of attacking midfield, Ekic’s natural position, became available. Ever since Ferguson-Dayes inserted Ekic into the starting lineup, the true freshman made the position her own.
She has already matched Brooklynn Rivers’ four-goal tally from last season and began her collegiate career with a beautiful turn-and-shoot goal against Boston University on Aug. 18. Ekic was awarded her first ACC Player of the Week honor for her two-goal performance against in-state rival Kentucky on Sept. 1.
“I think I’ve done pretty well so far,” Ekic said. “Moving the ball and dribbling. Sometimes I get doubled, but I work through it and know that I have to play quicker. I’ve had a few goals. It’s been fun. I love playing with the team.”
Scoring goals is almost second nature to Ekic. She scored over 60 goals in her first two years of high school soccer, including a school-record 41 as a sophomore. She was one of 20 girls in the country selected for the US U-17 national team and went on to play for the U-19 team, which competed in the Czech Republic over the summer.
Goals don’t come as frequent at the college level, but Ekic has already familiarized herself with finding the back of the net. Competing at the highest level of soccer made the transition from high school to college seamless.
“The international experience was a big part,” Ekic said. “It’s a step higher than college soccer, so coming back I felt a lot more comfortable. The speed of play is there, the aggressiveness and the competitiveness. It’s all the same, so I was used to the environment.”
Coming off a 3-2 loss to Purdue, Louisville rebounded with a convincing 4-0 win over Gardner-Webb Sept. 14. Ekic was not on the score sheet, but former high school teammate Allison Whitfield’s first half brace put the game to rest.
“Training the week prior to this game was really intense,” Ekic said. “We were competing and pushing each other off the ball. We really wanted this win because we felt we didn’t deserve to lose (to Purdue) like that. We’re a way better team and just had an off game.
The Cardinals head into the midpoint of the season with a record of 6-2-0, identical to last year. After conference play hampered such a strong start, Louisville will be looking to avoid the same fate. Ekic will play a pivotal role in determining whether the team can qualify postseason.
Louisville is on the road, taking on Boston College at Chestnut Hill Sunday, Sept. 17. The first conference game of the season is slated to begin at 1 p.m. They return home on Friday, Sept. 22 to host the first of a three-game home stand against No. 16 Florida State.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @tlcjordanshim.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal