By John Brodbeck, Holy Cross Sports Information Director
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Holy Cross (Ind.) senior captain for the men's soccer program, Niko Jelicic the Ottawa Fury of the Premier Development League (PDL) are heading to the Eastern Conference Championship semifinals.
The PDL is the top developmental men’s soccer league in North America, the 2013 PDL features 64 teams within four conferences throughout the United States and Canada. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team, seven home and seven away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility.
After playing an integral role on the most successful season in Holy Cross men's soccer history, where the program won a program-best nine games and made their first Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) playoff appearance, Jelicic has continued his 2012-13 successes with the Ottawa Fury.
"I'm extremely proud of our Captain Niko for his on the field accomplishments with the Fury this summer," stated Holy Cross head coach Omar Gallo. "When I recruited Niko three years ago, our goal was to build this program up to a solid contender in our conference. He has taken that torch and gone far and beyond all expectations.”
The leadership Jelicic has demonstrated as a member of the Saints, both on and off the field, is very noticeable to coach Gallo.
"His leadership with our program is constantly growing both as a player and a student," continued Gallo. "Niko was not only our first-ever First Team All-CCAC member, but he also was named to the CCAC All-Academic Team this past season. He's truly been a pleasure to coach; with his hard work, determination and leadership qualities, the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish on and off the soccer field."
After compiling a Northeast Division crown with an 11-1-2 regular season record, the Fury have taken the Eastern Conference by storm en route to their Conference Championship semi-final appearance; our very own Niko Jelicic has played a big part in that.
In Friday's regular season finale, Jelicic scored his first goal as a member of the fury in the 73rd minute off a brilliant header to give the Fury the 1-0 advantage. The goal proved to be the game winner and helped contribute to Jelicic being named Player of the Game.
Despite finding himself in an unfamiliar situation, either coming off the bench or not playing early on the season, Jelicic has relished this experience and grown from it as a player.
"It was difficult at times seeing limited action or not playing at all, but I knew my chance was coming and that I wouldn't let it go once it came," stated Jelicic. "The coaching staff told me when they recruited me that this would be a professional experience. As a player, you have to trust and respect the process. The coach has a vision, and he will use which players he feels are best for the job.
"Having a negative attitude doesn't do justice for anyone," continued Jelicic. "Not being an outright starter from the beginning only motivated me. The coaching staff here is fantastic, and they explained to me that choosing a starting eleven is very difficult, and I couldn't agree more. We are an amazing squad with a number of players at each position that can get the job done."
With the Eastern Conference Championship semifinal in line next, Jelicic realizes the goal of the team continues past Saturday's meeting (July 20) against Reading United (8-1-5).
"I knew the goal of this team back in December was to become PDL Champions," Jelicic stated. "This is just another step along the way. We are all excited to be that much closer to the final, but we respect the fact that we are only as good as our last game. It's a marathon, and not a spring, so the day-to-day focus is keeping us grounded.
"We still have goals in place and are excited for the opportunity to continue our season!"
In eight games played this season for the Fury, Jelicic has logged 645 minutes of action with one goal and two shots.
Jelicic has 25 career points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 49 games with the Saints.
Niko and the Fury will play in the semifinal round of the Eastern Conference Championship on Saturday (July 27) against Reading United.