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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Midfielder to skip UEFA qualifying games to play for UF

<p>UF midfielder Pamela Begic looks to pass during Florida's 2-1 win against LSU on Sunday at James G. Pressly Stadium.</p>

UF midfielder Pamela Begic looks to pass during Florida's 2-1 win against LSU on Sunday at James G. Pressly Stadium.

With four games remaining in the regular season and the Southeastern Conference tournament on the horizon, Florida soccer midfielder Pamela Begic had a decision to make.

The junior from Semič, Slovenia, could either stay with her collegiate team or travel to play for her native country in two matches as part of the qualifying group stage for the 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO tournament on Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.

Begic has appeared in nine games for the Gators this season and said that she will pass on the opportunity to play in Europe this month.

"I decided it’s better for me to stay here just because it’s really hard to travel that far and SEC’s coming to an end," Begic said.

"The SEC tournament’s coming up so I think it’s better for me to stay here."

On Sept. 22 Begic played for Slovenia against Scotland, a game that ended in a 3-0 loss for Begic and her teammates.

Begic took one of the team’s eight shots in the 19th minute of the loss.

Begic said travelling that distance to immediately come back and travel again for an SEC game was the hardest part for her.

"It is really hard to leave in the middle of the season when you’re playing with one team and then you leave to go play with another team," Begic said.

"Coming back and forth is kind of ridiculous. I came back Wednesday night and left on Thursday morning to travel again, on a plane, and it was hard."

Begic has provided coach Becky Burleigh and the No. 13 Gators with some valuable minutes while she has been on the field, scoring two goals and assisting on one this season.

Burleigh said that Begic's decision to stay comes at a good time for the midfielder.

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"I think that Pam’s gaining some momentum right now and I would hate for that to be broken by her being gone," Burleigh said.

"We always would support her if she wanted to go, but I’m excited that she’s staying."

The Gators have four games left this year against SEC opponents — Mississippi State, South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia — before the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama on Nov. 2-8.

Begic had made an impact in the most recent game she played in for the Gators on Sunday against LSU putting her only shot on frame and opening up the passing lanes in the final third of the field.

"With her experience, one of the things that American players struggle with the most is the final ball and that’s the thing attracted us to her the most in the recruiting process ... her ability to play the final ball," Burleigh said.

"You saw that on Sunday, she provided some great balls that were near assists. They were just balls that were really dangerous, breaking the back line."

Burleigh said Begic sent a recruiting video to the school and that's how the international player came up on Florida's radar.

Last year, Begic was a two-sport athlete playing soccer in the Fall and then transitioning to basketball in the Winter and Spring.

Begic tallied two goals and four assists in 22 games for the Gators in 2014.

She said the switch to only one sport has improved her focus on and off the field.

"It’s definitely different," Begic said.

"I only get to focus on one thing and it definitely gives me a lot more time to just focus on soccer, or like even school, or my life. It’s a lot easier to chase one rabbit than two."

 Follow Ryan Summers on Twitter @RyanSummers18

UF midfielder Pamela Begic looks to pass during Florida's 2-1 win against LSU on Sunday at James G. Pressly Stadium.

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