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U.S. WNT Flashback - 20th Anniversary of First-Ever Match: Sharon McMurtry

Sharon McMurtry did not play college soccer at Seattle University. True, the NCAA did not sponsor women’s soccer when she entered college in 1979, but McMurtry was a basketball player. She played hoops at Seattle U, but left early to play professionally in Holland. McMurtry played her adult club soccer for the Cozars out of Seattle, a legendary team of the 1980s that featured numerous national team players including Denise Boyer, Lori Henry, Denise Bender and on occasion Michelle Akers.  At 5-foot-9, she was a dominating force in midfield, but considered herself more a creative playmaker, setting the table for the other talented players of the day. McMurtry could have scored the first goal in WNT history, as she took a penalty kick in that first game after Stacey Enos had been brought down the box, but she missed it. McMurtry holds the distinction of being the first-ever player named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 1985. She got no press conference or press release, just a letter in the mail and a matted certificate that she still has to this day. The award was USOC sponsored back then. It proclaims her the “Sportswoman of the Year for the sport of soccer.”

More on the first-ever U.S. WNT match: OOOSA! | First Goal | Players Reflect

Career caps/Goals:
National Team Career:  1985-1986
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Position played in first match: Center midfield
College:  Seattle University (1979-80)
Last WNT game: July 9, 1986, vs. Canada (1-2 Loss)

What she’s doing now: Lives in Pahrump, Nevada, and works for a flooring company, Floors 4 Less. She coached high school soccer in Pahrump and also coached some AYSO.  She stopped playing in 2001 after playing in the Over-40s National Championships.

WNT Career Highlight: “The best part, because we really didn’t do much as a team, was getting there. Trying out for the state team, the regional team and the national team and just seeing everyone. Every year the regional team chosen from the West trained at Colorado Springs, which I enjoyed.  I played soccer for fun, not just to win, so I enjoyed everything about it. The place we played, Jesolo, was not even on the map. I think the Italians didn’t want Americans to know where it was because it was just beautiful. It was like the Miami Beach of Italy. I do remember singing the national anthem before the game and that was probably the most exciting thing. I was really, really proud to be an American.”

Memories of the first game: “I remember we had two Italian fans that watched all the games. We ended up giving them signed t-shirts and they would wave them around. It was like they had never seen an American before. The fans really liked us, but the Italian National Team, they hated us. One of their players took a run at me and almost killed me on a slide tackle. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to being totally wiped out. You know the feeling when you almost got hit by a car? That’s the feeling I had.”

“They gave us adidas shoes, but I couldn’t wear them because they made my feet hurt, so I wore my Nikes. I put tape over the Nike (Swoosh). I traded my adidas with a Danish player and she gave me her jersey. I still have it to this day.”

“(The penalty kick) was a foot to the left, on the ground. The feeling of missing a penalty kick just doesn’t change. Every time you miss a penalty kick, same feeling. (Penalty kicks) always made me nervous. In that kind of a game, I was extremely nervous, it was important.” 

Thoughts on how women’s soccer has grown: “For me, women’s soccer is more enjoyable to watch than men’s soccer. I think it’s a better game. It’s less violent and the skill level has improved dramatically. The entire team is skillful now. Back when I played, we had five members of our club team on the national team. Now every player has to have all-around skills and I’m glad that is happening. The women’s team now really works the ball around the field. I enjoy watching it.”

Thoughts on the 1999 Women’s World Cup: “I didn’t see any of it. I am usually outside. It’s too nice here. We have 330 days of sunshine a year in Parhump. I didn’t feel a big part of it. I haven’t felt part of it for a long time, but I was happy that they won.”

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