Ekic leads the Cards

Emina Ekic has overcome a pair of serious injuries to become one of the top college soccer players in the nation. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Emina Ekic was feeling a bit nervous until she put the ball down. Then, she stepped up and did what she's done thousands of times in games and practices: put the ball in the back of the net.

This particular goal from the junior midfielder gave U of L a 1-0 overtime victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday night and pushed the Cardinals' record to 7-0 -- the best start in program history. 

Known for her distribution skills, Ekic leads Louisville with four goals and four assists on the young season.

Ekic was a two-time Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and an All-American at duPont Manual High School. During the 2018 season, she became the first U of L's women's soccer player to be named a second-team All-American. The midfielder has earned these accolades despite battling back from two ACL surgeries: one on her right knee that forced her to miss her senior season at Manual and a second on her left knee in the final regular-season game of her freshman year at Louisville. 

The daughter of Bosnian refugees who came to Louisville two years before she was born, Ekic said working through those injuries has made her stronger mentally and physically.  The rehab process also changed the course of what she wants to be down the road: pursue a career in physical therapy. 

"At first I hated going to rehab," Ekic said. "As it went on, I thought, 'This isn't so bad. What if I worked with athletes?' I'd help someone else reach their goals, and then, after the second time, I thought, 'OK, this is for sure what I want to do. I probably know everything there is to know about knees.'"

Before physical therapy school, however, the midfielder would like to play professionally, or even for the national team. She has represented the United States in various international competitions since she was 14. 

"She could play at the next level, both domestically and internationally," U of L coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes said. "I'm sure the (National Women's Soccer League) will draft her and I think she could play for the national team. The sky is the limit."

First things first, Ekic will try to lead the Cards to another upset this week. Louisville hosts No. 4 North Carolina at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Lynn Stadium.        

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