Courtesy UofL Athletics

Throughout her playing career, Emina Ekic has not been a stranger to representing Team USA in the national spotlight.

Following a successful four years at DuPont Manual High School where she was twice named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year, the Louisville, Ky. native was a member of the U-17 and U-19 U.S. Women’s National Teams. Those opportunities allowed Ekic to train and play against tough competition from across the country.

“Being a part of various national teams has taught me how to expand my soccer IQ and understand how to play multiple positions, as well as to be highly adaptable,” said Ekic. “It teaches you how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

In 2019, Ekic was one of 24 players called up to the U-23 National Team to participate in the Thorns Springs Invitational in Portland, Ore. The invitational was part of the National Women’s Soccer League’s preseason competition and gave the U-23 squad valuable experience playing against professionals.

“It was a great experience playing in the Thorns Invitational last year,” said Ekic, who used the opportunity to learn, grow, and meet new people. “It pushed me to be a better player and elevated my game to a new level.”

Ekic’s work on the national stage and her experience playing with the country’s most elite soccer players has translated into a stellar college career with the Cardinals.

The rising senior has been named the Hermann Trophy Watch List twice during her career and has earned two first-team All-ACC and second-team United Soccer Coaches All-American honors, among other national recognitions. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, Ekic started all 20 matches for the Cardinals and ranked first on the team in both goals and assists.

“Playing against professionals and other standout college student-athletes has really helped me grow as a player,” said Ekic, who added that the pace of the game against the pros is much faster than in college. “It kept me on my toes because you really had to expect the unexpected.”

Just as soccer has taught her, Ekic has since learned to embrace the unexpected. For the second-straight season, she was again called up to the U-23 Team to participate in the 2020 Thorns Invitational from March 29-April 4. However, the tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When I found out I would get to go back to the Thorns Invitational and represent Team USA, I was ecstatic,” said Ekic. “When I found out the invitational was cancelled, it was heartbreaking. But at the end of the day, all the precautions and measures that were taken were for the best.”

Despite the disappointment of not being able to showcase her ability at the invitational this year, she has kept busy at home with schoolwork, reading, and trying new recipes. Although unable to practice on campus, Ekic has maintained her strength and fitness while staying connected with her teammates daily.

“I’m most excited to be able to train and be with my teammates after being apart for so long,” said Ekic, who added that the team’s goal is to leave the program better than the year prior while constantly striving for improvement.

“I love this team and I love playing for this school, and I can’t wait to see what my senior year has in store.”