Gus Proves You Can Go Home Again
Sept. 28, 2000
By Jason Yellin
After a disappointing soccer season as a freshman at Indiana University, Sara Gustafson knew there was only one place for her to go - the University of Maryland.
The Reisterstown, Md. native made the decision to come back to her homestate and play for the coach that she grew to love as a member of the Maryland Olympic Development Program, Shannon Higgins-Cirovski.
"When Maryland named Shannon as the new head coach, I knew right away that I wanted to go to Maryland," said Gustafson, who was an all-Metro performer at Franklin High School. "As a member of ODP and always having Shannon there I knew she was the kind of coach to get the most out of me.
"Shannon has always been able to keep me focused on soccer and keep me going. I love playing for her."
Higgins-Cirovski, who was named Maryland's coach on January 13, 1999 knew Gustafson could be an integral part of the Maryland team she was coming to coach. With seven freshman and Gustafson, as a transfer, Higgins-Cirovski was able to mold the Terps into a team with an attractive style of play as Maryland advanced to its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 1999.
"Obviously I have always had a liking for Gus," said Higgins-Cirovski. "She always goes out to be her best and play her best. I knew she could come in right away and add character to the team. Plus that fact that she had a year of college soccer under her belt she was able to lead by example because we had so many freshman."
Gustafson made an immediate impact on the Terps as a sophomore in 1999, starting all 22 games at forward. She scored two of the biggest goals of the season. Gustafson netted the game-winner - her second of the game -- in overtime to lift Maryland to a stunning 4-3 upset win over then-No. 9 Duke on Sept. 19.
She then came back for her third goal against the Blue Devils as Maryland knocked Duke out of the ACC Tournament in the first round last fall, 2-1 on Nov. 4.
"It was awesome to score the game-winner at Duke and to have such a great win," recalls Gustafson. "Then to come back and knock them out of the ACC Tournament, It was such a great feeling."
Gustafson came out with vengeance to start that 2000 season aggressively. In just the second game of the year, she put on her greatest performance as a collegian -- against perhaps her most hated rival, Penn State.
With her first career hat trick, Gustafson single-handedly lifted the Terps to their first-ever win against a top-five team, as the Terps beat the No. 4 Nittany Lions on Aug. 29 at Ludwig Field.
"I knew I could have a night like this against Penn State," said Gustafson. "It was the fifth time played Penn State in college and in all of the other four games -- three at Indiana and one in the NCAA's with Maryland last year -- my team lost by one goal. That was what I wanted more than anything was to beat Penn State. That was the game I was looking forward to the most and we got it done. It was awesome."
Gustafson was recognized for her outstanding effort as she was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week and named the Maryland Female Student-Athlete of the Week for the week ending Sept. 4.
It's days like the one on which Maryland upset Penn State, that makes Gustafson realize she made the right decision to transfer back home to Maryland.
"To be home and have my mom watch every game means to so much to me," said Gustafson. "To be playing for Maryland and Shannon is a dream come true."
And Higgins-Cirovski is just equally happy to have Gustafson wearing that Maryland No. 22 uniform every game.
"Gus brings a great excitement to the team and the program," said the coach. "She loves soccer in general, lives for soccer and loves being a part of Maryland women's soccer."