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Furtuna Velaj: Player Profile
“I’ve had some difficulty balancing my school-work and soccer. I’m always in the library reading or taking notes.” School-work is about the only thing that comes difficult to Furtuna Velaj these days. Velaj, the newest freshman phenom to hit Quinnipiac, has been running through defenders since she was a little girl, half-way across the world in Kosovo. Through September 10, the Bobcats women’s soccer team has played two games and Velaj has scored all three goals en route to victories in both games. Judging by Velaj’s quiet confidence and lengthy experience, the Quinnipiac faithful can expect to see a lot more of the same from Velaj throughout the season and in the future.
All throughout high school Velaj dominated her opponents. She is a three-time team Most Valuable Player, while also earning All-State and All-FCIAC First Team honors for her final three years at Westhill High School in Connecticut. Velaj also led her high school team in scoring for the last two seasons and she has no plans to stop any time soon. Velaj’s personal goals for this season are to not only lead the team in points scored, but to lead the NEC in points scored. Through two games, she is the leader in points per game across of the NEC teams. However, her expectations for the season do not stop there. While Velaj is a dominate offensive player on the field, the team concept is something she keeps her sights on. She also wants to lead the NEC in assists per game.
A typical freshman would be content with simply starting on a varsity team their first year, but Velaj is not just any typical freshman. Velaj describes her impeccable work ethic with seven simple words: “I always wanted to be the best.” Despite her early success, stays humble and feels she is “not better than most players”. She does not credit her success to being better than her opponents, but playing smarter.
While she has already accounted for all the goals the Bobcats have scored this season, she feels that her best soccer has yet to come. “I actually expected to have six goals,” Velaj said when discussing her reaction to playing division one soccer thus far. It is this confidence that helps Furtuna dominate on the field.
While in high school, Furtuna was on a semi-pro soccer team where she played against people from around the world, most of which who were college athletes or graduates. Of all her athletic talent, it seems to be her age that surprises people the most.
At age 18, Velaj was scouted out by the Women’s Professional League team in Chicago who wanted to draft her to play professional soccer. However, Velaj wanted to play in college so she could receive an education as well. She does plan on playing professionally after she graduates from Quinnipiac University. For the future, Velaj has set her sights on playing on the U.S. National team. She has played for the team in the past, but had to stop due the difficulties of travel schedules.
This was not the first time that Velaj had problems with travel. In 1998, at the age of eight, Velaj and her family fled Kosovo and come to America. They left Kosovo because the country was in the midst of a war. Being Albanian, it was no longer safe to reside in the country; Velaj and her family found refuge in America. Her experiences as a young child have shaped who Velaj is today. She appreciates her parents very much for all that they have done for her. In fact, she says that one of the reasons her family came to America was because her father wanted her to earn a good college education.
Velaj is very optimistic about the team’s chances this season. She is aware that the pre-season coaches’ poll had the team finishing in fourth place. However, Velaj thinks that if the team plays to its full capability, there is nothing in their way of finishing in first place. With four freshmen on the team, Velaj and junior Susan Donovan are planning on taking the NEC by storm. Only two games into the season, the team is still working on their chemistry, but once balanced, will lead to great success. Velaj can already tell that she and Donovan can be very successful together. As Velaj put it, “When we play together it’s something beautiful.”
Donovan herself has been very successful outside of college. Originally from Ireland, she has played for the Irish national team, and with the experience of having already played two years of college soccer, she can help show Velaj how to balance college and sports.
Coach Dave Clarke has already taken the initiative getting Donovan and Velaj to become accustomed to each other’s skill level and style of play. Freshman Chelsea Smith, says that watching Velaj play on the field is like “magic”.
For a young lady to have endured as much as Velaj has been through, she certainly has made quite the life for herself. Survivor of genocide, soccer super-athlete, and a role model to other athletes at Quinnipiac, she definitely has a lot to be proud of. After college, she hopes to continue and finish her soccer career playing professionally. Beyond soccer, Velaj, a Political Science Major at Quinnipiac, aspires to become a diplomat.