Experiencing a spiritual renaissance, discovering a newfound appreciation for her faith, Abigail Fuzaylov emerged from the Maccabiah Games with renewed perspective. Raised in Tampa, Florida, Fuzaylov, one of the youngest players for Team USA, calls Pittsburgh’s Chatham Cougars her university team.
An April 1, 2021 postseason clash versus the Alvernia Golden Wolves resulted in Fuzaylov’s greatest moment in the Cougars jersey. Logging the game winning tally in overtime, providing the program with its first-ever postseason win, it stands as one of her greatest goals.
Also a United Collegiate Hockey Conference All-Academic selection in 2021 and 2022, Fuzaylov, renowned as a shot blocking specialist, followed it up with a monumental milestone. Gaining the opportunity to play for the United States at the 2022 Maccabiah Games, the experience consisted of a proud connection to Chatham.
Cougars teammate, forward Tori Bevan, raised in Colorado Springs, also held a spot on Team USA’s roster. Coincidentally, both are biology majors, looking to pursue a Master’s Degree.
Encouarged by Chatham head coach Mike O’Grady to pursue the opportunity, Fuzaylov and Bevan underwent a whirlwind three day training camp in Philadelphia, their first opportunity to meet their teammates on this new journey. Undeniably, having a familiar face in Bevan set the tone.
“This experience was something that i will never forget. Being able to share it with Tori made it even better. It was nice to have a familiar face that I could always talk to. We will definitely bring these memories back to school with us.”
Considering the prestige of an international event, perhaps the most highly personal component involved wearing the Stars and Stripes for the first time. With her name and number adorning the back, it provided a compelling revelation, allowing Fuzaylov the opportunity to fully appreciate the dream of representing one’s country.
“Putting on that USA jersey was surreal. I personally did not understand the magnitude of this whole event until I put on that jersey and we stepped onto the ice for the first game.”
Undoubtedly, the tournament proved to be a defining moment for Fuzaylov. With one goal and five assists during tournament play, as the United States emerged with the silver medal, the milestone of a podium finish was made richer by several other unique subplots.
From the outset, a program organized by Maccabi USA dubbed Israel Connects, involves a six day journey visiting numerous sites and landmarks. An essential aspect of the US delegation, allowing athletes to enrich their linkage to the Jewish heritage, it sets the tone for an experience built from fellowship.
With Fuzaylov among the proud members of the Jewish sporting community taking to the ice at Pais Arena, a sharp focus on history and heritage emerged. Finding friends among numerous athletes, including from other competing nations in the women’s ice hockey tournament, the sense of friendship took a more profound context. With American and Canadian players providing advice to Israeli players in practice sessions, the kind gesture embodied the spirit of the Games, resulting in a potency of emotion.
“The thing I enjoyed most about the experience is what I was able to take away from it, which are amazing memories and lifelong friendships.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”