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Soccer freshman avoids the pressure of college and finds his way into the lineup

Originally published October 1, 2010

The transition between high school and college is difficult for any freshman, including soccer player Toni Ramadani.

During the first couple of weeks, freshmen can be amazed at the amount of talent and smarts of each person on campus.

Ramadani hasn’t let that slow him down one bit.

Out of the 13 freshmen on the soccer team, he has emerged as the freshman sensation on campus. Tied for second place for total points on the team with five, Ramadani hit the ground running.

“In the beginning, it was kind of a shock,” said Ramadani. “In high school it’s a lot slower. The first few days of practice I was like ‘oh my, what’s going on?’ It was more physical, more aggressive, stonger and faster.”

The first three games of the season, Ramadani didn’t get much playing time, but he was used to producing with limited time. As a second-team all conference place kicker for Washington Community High School, he knew how to produce in crunch time.

“As a kicker, you get one chance. If you mess it up, that’s maybe all you’re going to get,” he said. “In soccer, if you mess up once, you’ll have 10 more chances. I like it a lot more.”

Like a kicker football would, Ramadani was called in late in the game against Delaware. During the last game of a five-day, three-game road trip on the East Coast, Bradley needed a spark. Thirty eight minutes in, with one shot (his first shot in his collegiate career), Ramadani banged it in. With that, he had scored the winning goal.

“It’s definitely getting better as time goes on,” he said.

Ramadani is now starting more often for the Braves, and he’s fit right in whether he starts or not.

His consistency as a scorer and shot creator has kept his playing time up. That consistency is not just something Ramadani picked up randomly, but a product of the team’s coaching staff.

“I think the coaching staff definitely helps a lot. They’re always there,” he said. “I think the main difference is in high school and club, you can get by in a practice or two without giving 100 percent. Here, Coach DeRose and Coach O’Neil  will spot you right away for not pushing yourself. That’s where the improvement comes. Trying your best every single practice helps me stay consistent.”

The work Ramadani has put into every practice has paid off for him, but it is the trip to Macedonia he takes every year that may really put his preparation over the top.

“I go there once every year,” Ramadani said. “We play a lot of soccer, me and my friends there, and try to get prepared for the season. I trained with a team over there. That was good because they play a lot faster over there.”

When he’s not busy playing soccer at Bradley or in Macedonia, you can usually find Ramadani in his hometown of Washington trying to balance sport and academics.

“I try to get my homework done as early as possible so I don’t have to come home from a four hour soccer practice to homework.”

After the four hour practices and four hours of classes and hours of homework, Ramadani is able to do what we’d all like to do occasionally-go home and watch sports.

“I actually commute,” he said. “ I thought if my house is only 20 minutes away, why not just live there?”

While he’s home, Ramadani sits back and watches his favorite soccer players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo .

“That’s one of my things,” he said. “People usually ask me what team I like. I don’t have a favorite team. What I try to do is watch certain players, look at their strong sides and I try to work on those qualities, I try to imitate those. Take individual qualities I like from each player.”

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