NEW YORKEmily Surloff traveled just under 6,000 miles across the globe to compete in the 2017 Maccabi Games for the USA Women’s basketball team in Israel this month. The 12-hour flight was well worth it – as Surloff and Team USA brought home a Gold Medal, defeating Israel 71-61 in the championship game.

“Not a lot of people get to play for a gold medal,” Surloff said. “A gold medal is something special to play for and it was a surreal experience.”

Aside from winning the event, Surloff said the trip was life changing. Some national teams have played with each other for four years. Her teammates met and practiced together in a training camp for just two weeks prior their first game.

“It was a really different experience playing on a team that was put together really quickly,” Surloff said. “We were representing more than the United States. We are all Jewish and that’s something that really bonded us.”

Surloff was one of two Ivy League players on the team, including Hayley Isenberg from Harvard, on a squad filled with players from the PAC-12 and NESCAC.

“It was really interesting to hear about their experiences,” Surloff said. “Everyone was shocked that I play back-to-back games in the Ivy League.”

Surloff is confident that being part of a team which gelled and achieved success in such a short period of time taught her valuable lessons that she will bring back with her to Columbia this season.

“We have an even longer season here and to be able to get that communication and cohesion down quickly will be really important for us.”