Kicking It Into High Gear
Back in Elite Eight, Senior Captain Hopes to Lead Terps to NCAA Victory
The last time the University of Maryland men’s soccer team played in an Elite Eight game in the NCAA Tournament, then-freshman Amar Sejdic got a second yellow card and had to watch from the sidelines after two rounds of overtime, then penalty kicks as the Terps fell to Clemson.
Now, back in the quarterfinals for the first time since then, he hopes to help UMD finish the job.
“I know he’s highly motivated,” said head coach Sasho Cirvoski. “The whole class is motivated to go one step further than their freshman year.”
No. 11 seed Maryland will battle No. 3 Kentucky at 6 p.m. today in Lexington, Ky., with the winner advancing to next weekend’s College Cup in Santa Barbara, Calif. Senior captain Sejdic, who as the Terps’ leading scorer notched two of his seven goals this season in the team’s first two tournament games, is a big reason they made it this far.
Born in Berlin, Germany, Sejdic began playing “right out the womb,” he said. His father, Rizah Sejdic, played semi-professionally, and he always had a ball at his son’s feet.
The family, refugees of the Yugoslav Wars, moved to Louisville, Ky., in 2000. But Amar’s passion for the game took him back to Europe when he was 16 to play in a top youth league in Holland, where he lived with a host family, hurdled the language barrier and abandoned his newly acquired driver’s license to use public transportation.
“Speaking with the local people and kind of earning the trust and respect from everyone as a soccer player was important,” Sejdic said. “So it was definitely something that toughened me up mentally in my teenage years.”
He drew interest from a few college programs, including Maryland. After hearing a ringing endorsement from former Terp forward Sunny Jane ’14, who also grew up in Kentucky, he was convinced to visit campus.
“We immediately saw his ballerina feet. He has a really deft touch, and he’s a really cultured soccer player,” Cirvoski said. “We made it very clear that if he’s going to college, he’s coming to Maryland.”
Ever since, Sejdic has racked up All-Big Ten honors, two Big Ten championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances. In just a few weeks, he’ll graduate with an economics degree as the first in his family to earn a college diploma. But at today’s game, which his family will drive over from Louisville to attend, he’ll look to get one step closer to the program’s fourth national title.
“It’d be a big thing to close out my senior campaign with a big trophy like that, especially since that’s what I came in wanting,” Sejdic said. “So knowing that we’re one of eight teams left … is a great feeling.”