In the final seven minutes of the final regular season game a year ago, Cal State Fullerton senior Adriana Gjonovich owned her moment.
Teammate Rebecca Wilson dummied the ball in front of Cal Poly’s net on a cross from Christina Burkenroad, right at their senior’s feet.
“Once Rebecca [Wilson] dummied it, I knew it was mine,” said Gjonovich.
The midfielder broke a scoreless tie in the 83rd minute on Senior Day to net the game-winning goal, her first on the season, as the Titans became the 2014 Big West Conference regular season champions and recorded their first unbeaten mark in league play since the 1996 campaign at 6-0-2.
“It was what we had been working for all season,” said Gjonovich on her most memorable collegiate play.
“I struggled during the preseason so I made it a goal of mine to give it extra during season. That was definitely a defining moment.”
The Titans would go on to take the Big West Tournament crown for the second straight year, thus earning their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. In addition, Gjonovich was a key component of two regular season championship squads (2012, 2014) to go along with the back-to-back Tournament titles.
In addition to her accolades earned on the field, Gjonovich excelled in the classroom. She was named to the Big West Academic All-Conference team twice, earned Dean’s List seven times and was named CSF’s 2014 Big West Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year before graduating in the spring of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a minor in Pre-Health Professions.
Her ultimate goal? Becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Why orthopedic surgery?
“With other surgeries you’re fixing someone to keep them alive,” said the Big West Conference’s 2015 Woman of the Year honoree, “with orthopedic surgery, you’re fixing them to make their life better.”
Adriana’s dedication to academics, athletics, community service and leadership as a Titan led to her Big West Conference Woman of the Year honor after Cal State Fullerton nominated her earlier this summer.
Just a couple weeks ago, Gjonovich’s father handed her an envelope from the NCAA addressed to the scholar. Inside was a certificate announcing she had been chosen as the conference’s honoree.
Adriana humbly thought, “Why me?”
“Seven other girls that were nominated [from the conference], to be next to them and be chosen is awesome. I’m proud to represent the Big West and all of the females – every single one of them works hard. The struggle that comes along with being a student athlete… I’m amazed by all of them constantly.”
The NCAA Woman of the Year Award honors graduating student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership and will recognize the top 30 honorees at the annual ceremony in Indianapolis on Oct. 18.
Continuing her pursuit of the four pillars in which the award celebrates, Gjonovich now divides her time between interning at St. Joseph in the Clinical Care Extender program and shadowing an orthopedic surgeon.
The Fullerton alumna continues to push herself saying that she loves her hands on experience in both her internship and in her shadowing opportunity, never shying away from asking another question.
Gjonovich’s curiosity keeps her focused and her desire to attend medical school keeps her driven.
“Set a goal athletically and academically,” she shared. “It doesn’t matter what the goal is, it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it needs to be attainable and it needs to be something you’re going to put your mind to.
“It helps keep you on the right path, otherwise you’re doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it.”
It’s an attitude Gjonovich maintained both on and off the field and it is what kept her focused and balanced as a student-athlete.
When it came to movies on a Friday night or a little extra studying for an upcoming test, Gjonovich would ask herself what would benefit her most in the long run.
“Adriana is an amazing example of what a Division I student-athlete should be,” CSF women’s soccer head coach Demian Brown said to Cal State Fullerton Athletics. “Her dedication to achieve success on the field and in the classroom is inspiring. It has truly been an honor to coach an individual with her character and determination.”
The recent grad plans on immersing herself in her studies in the upcoming year to complete the final prerequisites for medical school while continuing to intern and shadow.
Never too far from a field, Gjonovich has also started training young athletes on the pitch after a few family friends inquired about her training their daughters. Gjonovich uses the time to help the girls ages 9-11 perfect their ball-handling skills.
“Tactical things will come,” said the young trainer, “but it’s really important to be able to control the ball on your own. And of course making sure they have fun. I want them to always have fun, without that there just isn’t a point.”
For someone who has spent years playing her sport, one of the things that kept it fun was seeing her ever-supportive grandparents in the stands at all of her home games and at every away game they could attend, even flying to Hawai‘i for a conference match.
“My grandparents have supported me since I was tiny, in anything and everything that I do,” said Gjonovich. “They’ve always been my number one fans, yelling my name from the top of the stadium. Playing for them in a sense, just knowing how much joy they get watching me or supporting me. I’m not always [playing] just for me.”
As the daughter of a CSF softball player and a high school wrestler, track star and football player, athletics have always been a family affair. Fullerton’s close proximity to home appealed to the Cypress native and presented Gjonovich with the opportunity to be closer to her two younger sisters, Angela and Analisa, who also share Adriana’s great love of soccer.
Fullerton was a perfect fit geographically, academically and athletically. Plus, there was nothing like running out onto the Titan Stadium pitch to Gjonovich.
With Miley Cyrus’ “Do My Thang” booming through the vast venue, Gjonovich isn’t sure if anything in the medical field will quite compare to that initial moment of taking the field.
Maybe it might not feel like netting the game-winner to clinch a Big West Conference title.
Maybe it won’t feel like an unbeaten season.
However, for Adriana, nothing will compare to being accepted into medical school.
“It’s so different [now], change is kind of scary but at the same time it’s also time for a fresh start. I’ve loved my four years of soccer, but I do realize it’s time for something else,” said Gjovonich brimming from ear-to-ear.
“I’m excited to push myself in different way, maybe not as much physically, but mentally and professionally. I’ll always be a competitor, I’ll always stay active, but I am excited to move on to something different. A career is exciting.”
So when those letters start arriving for the fall of 2017, reading the word “accepted” is a moment that this competitor, cannot wait to own.