Aug. 25, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford senior midfielder Kristy Zurmuhlen earned the first starts of her collegiate career in the Cardinal's season-opening victories over visiting Penn State and Pacific. The road to that point had been a difficult one, especially after sitting on the bench for most of her sophomore year, playing in only two matches. A renewed outlook changed her focus and now the Walpole, N.H., native is a vital part of the No. 2 team in the nation.
Q: What's it like to be a senior and finally break into the starting lineup?
A: It's definitely hard mentally to stay focused and keep believing that your time will come, especially on a team like Stanford, where everybody coming in and everybody here is so talented. Sometimes, it's not necessarily about being the best, it's about chemistry too. Right now, in the midfield, there are a lot of different roles, and right now I happen to fit one of those roles.
I think (coach) Paul (Ratcliffe) knows that I'm going to give it my all and do the best I can in there. I would do anything to help the team out. I'm really excited to be there. I don't take it for granted at all, because at any time, things change. I'm definitely on my toes. If you're not on top of your game, we have 26 players on this team, and 26 players could be in the starting lineup. You definitely want to cherish it.
Q: Two years ago, you only played in two games. How frustrating was that for you?
A: That was one of the hardest years for me, my sophomore year. Mentally, sometimes you get in your own way. It was so upsetting to me because I know I was capable of doing more, but I wasn't showing it. I just dug myself into a hole and it was really hard to climb out of it.
I was so mentally in my own way that it was really affecting my performance on the field. There was a point where if one person couldn't dress, that person was me. At that point, I felt I had nothing to lose. I just needed to get it together. That spring I said, "I'm not going to overthink anything, I'm just going to play. If I can finally get to the level I know that I'm capable of, regardless of whether I start, I'll be happy."
Q: Did you think of leaving?
A: Those thoughts definitely went through my head, but this university is so special. I talked to my parents about it and they helped me realize that there's so much more that this school can offer. I needed to push through. And the girls on this team are amazing. I felt like I would be giving up more than I'd be gaining by doing something like that.
Q: Can you describe your playing style? It's pretty unique.
A: I get that a lot. Honestly, when you get to the college level or high levels, you have to know the things that you're good at. You have to own that and play to that. I know that I'm never going to be a finesse player like Teresa Noyola, that's not what I'm capable of and it's not what I do well. For me, I would describe my style as being pretty scrappy. I feel I can read plays defensively. I have the most fun when I'm tackling and I'm winning the ball. I'd like to think I'm kind of a ball-winner for the team. That's what I try to do.
Q: If I was going to Walpole, N.H., what would I need to see?
A: First of all, I would tell you not to blink because you would pass through the entire town. Walpole's super small (population 605, in the town's central settlement). There's definitely a small-town feel. You definitely know everyone. Downtown, there's a common area where you pretty much run into all your friends. There's a market and things.
My high school is actually in Langdon, it's not in Walpole, but all the Walpole kids go there. It's pretty much a farm itself. We have cows, and chickens and pigs and horses - a huge agriculture program at the school. Literally, senior pranks would be, Let the cows loose in the building. Lots of woods, small town, nice people.
Q: How did you get from there to here?
A: My parents, I owe them everything for that. To get to a club practice, I would have to drive 2½ hours, three times a week, actually my mom would drive me. I would do ODP (Olympic Development Program), which really wasn't very good in New Hampshire at that time, so you'd really have to get on the regional team. My mom would drive me anywhere to any tryout, usually outside of the state. From there, you'd go to regional and national pools to get looks that way.
Q: How did you get turned on to soccer in the first place, growing up in a rural area?
A: We had little rec leagues. I played every different sport, but I feel I was a little better at soccer than I was in the other ones, and I feel my mom was kind of like letting me take it to the next level. She'd say, "Well, why don't we try out for a club team and see what happens?" I just took to it and loved it, and she was willing to sacrifice her time to drive me everywhere.
Q: How did your mother get her name, Devey? I've never heard that before.
A: She's one of six kids. They all have `D' names. Honestly, I think my grandmother made it up. I don't think that was actually a name. I've never heard anybody else with that name.
Q: You have a normal name. What's your middle name?
A: Jeanne. Kristina Jeanne.
Q: How does the team continue to thrive after losing such talented players as Christen Press and Kelley O'Hara over the past two years?
A: We were just talking about this the other day. A lot of it is just believing in each other. If everyone does their job, we're going to be successful because we have so many amazing players. It's that attitude ... believing in each other and believing we're going to win. But also the fact that we don't have a Kelley or a Press, everyone is really taking that responsibility personally. Everyone knows they have to contribute to score. And that's why so many different people have scored goals (six players in the first two matches). That's definitely a change, because we would be looking to get the ball to Press or give the ball to Kelley. That's a lot of pressure on one person. But everyone's taking on that responsibility this year.
Q: Your major is human biology. What are your future plans?
A: I'm not interested in med school, but I am considering school to become a physician's assistant. I think that's a better choice for me because it's not 90 million years of school and you don't have to specialize. You work under a doctor and you can change fields. I definitely want to get into medicine, I just don't think being a doctor would be the right choice for me and I think a P.A. would be the perfect compromise. That's what I'm looking at right now.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics