By A.V. Sherk
Suzie Zigante, as a student-athlete, knows a lot about sacrifice. Her college life centers around the time, energy, and commitment to play college ball alongside her teammates.
“My parents are both soccer coaches, so I was kind of born into it. I wanted to please them when I was little, but I had no talent and they knew it,” Zigante said. “They knew I had no talent when I was little, but they saw that I worked really hard and so they pushed me to do it if I wanted to do it. I loved it so much, and then I got better at it.”
Hard work is Zigante’s specialty. Though she loved soccer, she soon realized that the field wasn’t the place for her, and she adapted to the only spot left.
“I’ve always played goalie. The story of how I got play goalie is kind of sad,” Zigante said. “When I was little, I was the worst field player on the whole entire team and we didn’t have a goalie. So they put me in goal, and I wasn’t even that good at it either. They didn’t have another one so I just played it and I got better as I got older. I really like it, and now I play in college.”
Yet, Suzie Zigante turned down a full soccer scholarship with Grand Canyon University to play for the UNC Asheville Bulldogs.
“I don’t have a scholarship with UNCA. When I was recruited here, I was going to have a $2000 scholarship, but when I chose to go to Grand Canyon instead and then came back to UNCA I didn’t have the scholarship anymore,” Zigante said. “But that’s totally fine. I love the team and UNCA is really affordable in compared with the other schools out there. Luckily we live here, though my parents are three hours away, so we have in-state tuition”
Zignate fell in love with Asheville, and found her path while attending UNCA.
“Everyone is just so much nicer here, and the town is beautiful, the mountains are so much prettier than the city to me. It’s a lot closer to home and the weather’s better too,” Zigante said. “When I was looking for a school I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I had to get fit for soccer, I didn’t realize what I wanted to do until I got here.”
Zigante discovered that her passion for helping others, athletics and healthy living could be a lifelong career for her.
“I want to major in health and wellness. I want to be a personal trainer for overweight kids and adults, kind of like a nice Jillian Michaels. I just want to help people with whatever I do,” Zigante said. “I realized when I was trying to get fit for the summer, because I wasn’t as fit as I should have been, and I realized I really liked it. I have a few overweight friends, and they were always sad about it. I was watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ all summer and yeah, I just wanted to help them.”
As a student-athlete, Zigante’s days consist of a strictly regimented schedule with very little change.
“If we have practice, I wake up at 5:50 a.m. and we have to be in the locker room at 6:30,” Zigante said. “I like to eat a little bit before, so I have to get all my stuff together and I have cereal and a banana. I go to practice, and then after practice sometimes we have lifting from 9 to 10:30. Then I have class at 11:45, and then another class right after that one. Then I eat, and then I do homework, homework, homework. That’s a typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday. “
However, that doesn’t mean she can’t have a social life.
“Well if I don’t have homework, one of my best friends from high school goes here and she doesn’t play sports so it’s really nice to go hang out with people who don’t play sports and have a life without sports,” Zigante said. “And I love to hang out with them, they’re great people too. It’s really cool that I can be an athlete and still have friends that aren’t athletes as well. So I have both sides, and I love both sides. Soccer takes over a lot, but it doesn’t take over completely.”
Heather Muller, UNCA’s main goalie, has proven to become not just a teammate but also a friend to Zigante. Together they practice and sharpen their skills as they compete for minutes of real game play.
“Heather Muller is awesome. She’s a really really really talented goalie, and she’s a good person too. She’s better than me at the high stuff, well, she is like six feet tall. But she will never ever put me down,” Zigante said. “We always work so hard together and we always work so well because we’re friends too. We can push each other, but we both respect each other a lot and because of that we work well with each other. In practice we’re competing and playing, but we also have fun at the same time. I’ve never hated her or anything. She’s real nice and a really good goalie. I’m learning from her every day. “