Adelaide University was playing in SA soccer’s amateur ranks this time last year.
On Easter Monday, it will fight for a place in the last eight of the FFA Cup SA.
They will face fellow State League 2 club Gawler at University Ovals as they bid to progress deeper into the national knockout competition.
Captain Kosta Jaric said the Uni squad watched the live stream of the cup draw with mixed emotions.
“Our hearts were in our mouth as our ball was drawn out and we were all looking forward to taking on a big fish,” centre back Jaric, 34, said.
“But when we got Gawler we were pretty stoked that we had a chance to make the quarter-finals which we wouldn’t have dreamt of before.
“I’ve told a lot of these boys that these types of chances don’t come along every year.
“For the club it’s also an opportunity to announce ourselves at this level.”
Uni beat Seaford 5-1 in the preliminary round of the cup last month before downing Northern Demons 1-0 in Port Pirie.
Its reintroduction to federation football, where it last played in 1983, has been more mixed.
The Blacks, who possess former Croydon left back Jordan Fighera and ex-Adelaide Olympic midfielder Mark Kekez, kicked off the campaign with a 7-1 thumping of UniSA.
But the side has since suffered four straight narrow losses.
“It’s been interesting,” said Jaric, who joined Uni as a player this year after coaching in the club’s women’s system since 2010.
“A lot of the boys have been surprised with how well they can actually compete.
“Half our team has come from the amateur side and half has come from other clubs, but it’s actually meshed together well.”
The Blacks pulled off a master stroke appointing Adelaide City great Milan Ivanovic as coach over summer.
Jaric said the 59-cap Socceroo had helped the new-look squad adjust to tougher competition while demonstrating his class in small-sided games at training.
“His first touch is still sublime but he doesn’t run around too much any more,” said Jaric, who played under Ivanovic at White City in 2001.
“He’s been great for our younger boys who haven’t experienced someone like him before.
“Even just listening to some of his old stories, they’ve been in awe.”
Long-term, Jaric said the club had the potential to become an SA soccer powerhouse.
“Although it’s our first year at this level, we’re definitely a sleeping giant.
“It’s only a matter of time until we start pushing up into those upper echelons.”
Originally published in The Advertiser as Adelaide University plays for place in FFA Cup SA last eight