Zurrer’s return results in Illini victory



By Stuart Lieberman

Emily Zurrer stood proud at the Illinois soccer field on Sunday afternoon, as the sun shone above the land of the free and the home of the brave. She listened to the American national anthem for the first time in months and was eagerly awaiting her chance to take the collegiate field once again.

Zurrer, who spent her summer playing for the Canadian women’s soccer team at the Olympic Games in Beijing, returned to Champaign on Thursday and saw her first minutes as an Illini and former Olympian this season against Dayton on Sunday.


photo DI multimedia


Illini win tournament

Click to view a slideshow.


photo DI multimedia


Women beat Iowa State

Click to view a slideshow.

“I listened to the Canadian anthem this summer. It was great to hear the (American) anthem again,” Zurrer said. “I love the American anthem. Don’t tell my Canadian friends that, but I do.”

And the senior defender could not have asked for a better ending to her first game back. With about four minutes left in the overtime period, Zurrer headed the ball into the right corner of the net, scoring the only goal of the game and leading the Illini to a 1-0 victory against the Flyers to win the Illini Challenge Cup.

“We found a way to win, and that’s all that matters today,” Zurrer said. “I saw the far post open, so I just tried to get it in there and luckily it went in.”

Head coach Janet Rayfield seemed surprised at the quality of Zurrer’s play after a long flight home from Beijing earlier in the week.

“For her to get the goal her first weekend back, it’s exciting I think for her, it shows what she brings to the team,” Rayfield said.

But heading into the game, nobody thought the Vancouver, British Columbia, native would see a lot of minutes.

“We definitely wanted to see her today,” Rayfield said after Sunday’s win. “We would have liked to ease her in and maybe play her a few less minutes, but I don’t think (she had) 70 minutes in her legs. It was good to get her in and get her comfortable with the players around her because that will be important. This was a helpful training ground to get her back into things.”

Rayfield allowed Zurrer to warm-up with the team on Friday but was hesitant to give her playing time on such short notice. In fact, as of Friday, Rayfield thought Zurrer might only play 10 or 15 minutes against Dayton.

“I think we’ll try and get her in,” Rayfield said following Friday’s game. “She flew back into Champaign Thursday night. I hate to get her out their with her travel legs, but she is itching to get on this field. We’ll try and give her a little time on Sunday so she can at least get back in.”

Despite Zurrer seeing more playing time than expected, she said she is still not completely satisfied with her contributions to the team, and it will take time to get back into the swing of things.

“The team’s been training for weeks before I got here, and so its just kind of getting back into the mold,” Zurrer said about the upcoming weeks.

Nonetheless, she cannot be any happier with the way things panned out. Zurrer will commence training with the team this week and hopefully be a part of the starting lineup next week. But the most important thing for her is that she has finally returned home.

“It’s totally different,” Zurrer said about the Canadian Olympic team and the Illini. “The Canadian team, I was with them for a very short period of time, and this team I’ve been together with for over three years. Two different families, it’s better to get back with this one that I’ve known for a lot longer.”