Fresh off their international performances for their respective home countries in the Under-20 women’s World Cup in Japan, the Michigan trio of junior forward Nkem Ezurike, junior defender Shelina Zadorsky and sophomore midfielder Christina Murillo hope the experience can carry over into the collegiate season.

Ezurike and Zadorsky, who competed for Canada, and Murillo, who played for Mexico, rejoined the Wolverines last weekend during Michigan’s road trip to California. Despite feeling the effects of jet-lag in their first couple of games back, the three players made it clear that they are in a class of their own.

Michigan coach Greg Ryan, who was the U.S. Women’s National Team head coach for three years, believes that the time spent overseas had a huge impact on the growth of the three players.

“Christina Murillo is a prime example,” Ryan said. “She was a very good player last year but she’s taken it three levels higher. Honestly, I don’t see many college players playing the way she is right now.”

The World Cup took enormous amounts of extra training and months of preparation for the trio and has paid dividends, especially for Murillo, who left Ann Arbor after the first semester last year to train with the Mexican national team.

“The past six or seven months have helped me improve on my one-on-one skills and I think it helped on my shooting abilities,” Murillo said.

Ryan hopes that the trio’s improvement from the international circuit will push them to become clear-cut leaders. However, due to the three players’ absence from the team during international play, Ryan expects their teammates to carry them as they transition back to playing for Michigan.

“I expect the other players to carry them in this transition time,” Ryan said. “They haven’t been training with us and sometimes aren’t in sync with the team.”

Perhaps most important of all is the fact that the initial taste of the World Cup has made the trio hungrier to get better in order to try and make their respective national squads in the next World Cup.

“It was a phenomenal experience and a great honor to represent your country on the world stage,” said Zadorsky. “But I’m going to keep working at it.”

If Sunday’s game at Oakland was any indication of things to come, it is a great sign for the team. Ezurike pressured Oakland’s defense all day and the lone goal was a difficult shot from Murillo. Zadorsky led the defense in a shutout.

And there is no indication that every game can’t play out this way.

“Somewhere down the road, these girls will carry us,” Ryan said.

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