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After missing most of her junior year with shin splints, Bojana Mitrovic returned to the field this fall and helped the East Haven girls’ soccer team earn a spot in states with her staunch performance on defense. (Photo courtesy of Bojana Mitrovic )
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Bojana Mitrovic has been kicking around a soccer ball from the time she was toddler. Bojana, who was born in Serbia and moved the United States when she was one, comes from a family that has deep roots within the sport. Bojana’s grandfather Milorad Mitrovic played professionally in France and Italy, and her father Marco Mitrovic came close to competing at the pro level, as well. Bojana made her family proud by putting together a nice run as a member of the East Haven girls’ soccer squad, capping her career with a great senior season this fall.
“Ever since I was little, my dad would tell me stories about how his dad made it so far and played in France and for a league in Italy,” Bojana says. “My dad also pursued soccer, and he was going to go, but we were in Serbia, and there was a war going on, so it wasn’t good timing. So, we came over here. But I feel like that influence I have from my dad and grandpa shaped me.”
The popularity of soccer in Europe only elevated Bojana’s interest to take up the sport. Bojana was eager to start playing at a young age, because she wanted to be like the players that she grew up idolizing.
“It really fueled my desire to not just play, but get that experience that athletes feel during games,” says Bojana. “Whether it’s a game or practice, every day you’re around a great group of people that all have one goal in mind.”
Bojana typically played up top as a striker during her early days with the Yellowjackets. When Jake Hackett took over as East Haven’s head coach last year, he moved Bojana to the defender’s position. While she enjoyed scoring goals like anyone else, Bojana settled in quite nicely on the defensive end of the pitch.
“I prefer playing up top, only because I feel like it’s more enticing and exciting to be the goal scorer, but I do like defense, because I think it’s more technical, and you need to be more strategic,” Bojana says. “You have to be smart on defense. My skillset is very versatile, and I’d say I’m pretty fast and aggressive.”
Bojana had to deal with some adversity as a junior last year, when she was sidelined for nearly the entire season due to shin splints. Fortunately, Bojana returned to the field with a clean bill of health for her senior season, helping the Easties have a solid campaign that featured seven wins and a Class L State Tournament berth.
“It stunk, because we had a new coach and were all excited to start something new, but I was set back. It was a very severe case of shin splints where I couldn’t even run or walk down stairs without feeling pain in my legs, so that was tough,” says Bojana. “It still stays with me, but I did a lot of physical therapy, so my legs are much stronger, and I’m able to handle it. I make sure to stretch after every practice and every game, because that’s what the physical therapist told me.”
Coach Hackett felt thrilled to see Bojana get back in action this year, especially after all the hard work she put in between her junior and senior seasons. Hackett says that Bojana and fellow senior defender Ali Szewc formed a fantastic tandem in the Yellowjackets’ backfield.
“We needed somebody to partner with Ali, and Bojana, from day one of preseason, stepped right up and secured that spot. She definitely earned that spot, and it made me proud to see her after missing her entire junior year. She was committed and wanted to be back in the mix,” Hackett says. “She put on exceptional performances and was a strong defender. She helped us start attacks out of the back and is very calm on the ball...and that is a big part of her ability in the game.”
As a senior, Bojana took it upon herself to rally her teammates to work out together during the offseason. Their effort paid off in the form of a big-time resurgence for the Easties that has the team set up well for future success.
“It was really important to come out every day, whether it was a practice or game, with a positive attitude and be prepared for the day,” says Bojana. “It felt great to be back on the field and in that atmosphere again. It was amazing, because it was my senior year, and made everything more desirable to win and get back on the field.”
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