Living the dream

Senior Furtuna Velaj eyes professional career

By on October 12, 2011
Photo by Charlotte Greene/Chronicle

The Quinnipiac women’s soccer team is playing with a potential pro soccer star. Besides leading the team in goals on the season, senior standout Furtuna Velaj is looking toward her future. Once her season comes to an end, she will look to play professional soccer.

“I want to take some time and see how far soccer will take me. I want to do the thing I love the most,” Velaj said. “And ever since I was little, I wanted to play professional soccer.”

Velaj is living the dream. Young athletes tend to dream about playing professionally, and Velaj is one of the few that will have the chance to do so. Once the season ends she will have the opportunity of a lifetime to get noticed by professional scouts.

“I’m trying to go professional, but I have to wait for the combine in the winter time,” Velaj said. “From there, it depends on what team I get drafted to.”

She explained the combine as an invitation event to the top players in the nation for a couple days. Professional scouts and coaches will be there watching and evaluating each player.

Players from around the country come together and are judged on fundamental skills and their ability to play in games. And like any other sports combine, the better an athlete does, the better their chances of receiving an offer earlier and get signed.

Velaj hopes to really make an impression on the scouts there.

“I play in a small conference. I don’t play in the ACC or the Big East,” Velaj said. “The ESPN articles and things like that have helped me with recognition and kinda put my name out there, but without that I would have had to really rely on the combine.”

The 5-foot-6 forward was recognized before this season began on AllWhiteKit.com, a women’s soccer fan site, as a potential pick for the Women’s Professional Soccer draft in the winter. She ranked 29th out of the 185 senior pro-prospects listed on the site. Velaj also ranked among the top 50 forwards in the country for women’s college soccer.

On ESPN.com

Photo by Charlotte Greene/Chronicle

Velaj was described “… as enthralling an individual talent in college sports. She’s given freedom to put her technical brilliance to full use for Quinnipiac, but larger stages await her soon enough.”

“Furtuna’s inclusion as one of the top players to watch in 2011 is great for her and great for the program,” Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said. “The names she was mentioned with play at some of the most illustrious schools in all of college sports. For a player from Quinnipiac to be named among that group is a great honor for the school and the Northeast Conference.”

Velaj’s credentials are impressive to any coach even though she did not play in one of the larger conferences. She was the team’s Player of the Year last season as well as being named to the National Coaches Association of America’s third team, the All-Northeast Conference First Team, and the New England’s Intercollegiate Soccer Association’s second team.

She also led the Bobcats in points last season with seven goals and five assists. Additionally, in her first two seasons at Quinnipiac, Velaj was ranked among the top players in the nation in points from goals and assists.

This is not the first time Velaj has received interest about playing professional ball.

“It’s against NCAA rules for professional teams to contact you, but I had offers before I came to college,” Velaj said.

Velaj did not name any specific team or league she wishes to play for in the United States, but she expressed her confidence in receiving an offer.

“I’m pretty sure I will get an offer somewhere, but to be honest it all really depends on the combine.”

Velaj has alternate plans if U.S. professional soccer does not work out.

“If anything I could just end up playing in Europe,” Velaj said. “Germany, Sweden and England are my three options if I don’t play in the U.S.”

Although the future looks bright for Velaj, she is focusing on the present. She is enjoying the rest of her time at Quinnipiac with her teammates, both on and off the field. And she expressed her happiness in the team’s play finally coming together.

“Now that we are in conference, we have gotten the kinks out of the way, and we are going to do a lot better to make the playoffs.”

The Bobcats are 3-6-1 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Velaj looks to keep scoring in order for her team to come out on top.

Although she leads the team in goals, Velaj is no selfish player, as she has tallied 14 assists since her sophomore year as a Bobcat.

She explained that winning is a priority and that she loves scoring goals, but she also enjoys when her teammates score, too.

She said she respects every effort made out there by her fellow Bobcats, and when her team comes together, that it is one of the best offensive teams out there.

The Bobcats’ team leader looks to continue her success on the field for now and hopes to live out her dream in the future.

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