Equipped with a profound respect for the game and a will to do her nation proud, Nichelle Prince will take on the task of representing her country in Olympic qualifying.
Prince, now a senior on the Ohio State women’s soccer team, was awarded one of the highest honors in all of athletics last week when she was named to Canada’s 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying roster. The team will compete in a series of matches over the next few months for a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s a huge honor for me and I am really excited to get to play with some players that I have looked up to since I was little,” Prince said. “Playing on this level and having a chance to go to the Olympics is something that I am very proud of.”
Prior to her addition to the qualifying team, Prince made seven appearances with the Canadian national team, making two starts and tallying three goals. This, however, will be the first opportunity she has had to be on a team that can qualify for the Olympics.
Born in Ajax, Ontario, Prince has been working for many years to have an opportunity to play on this grand of a stage. She has experience playing against high-level competition, spending years participating in U-15, U-17 and U-20 teams in addition to her seven international spots with the national squad.
When OSU coach Lori Walker heard the news that Prince had been added to the Olympic-qualifying roster, she was able to reflect on her emotions as the coach of the player receiving this special opportunity.
“As a coach, it is a wonderful feeling to know that you have been a part of helping a player to get to the highest stage,” Walker said. “It’s a very proud moment to know that you have influenced them and helped in some capacity.”
Walker expressed that what Prince brings to her team is more than just on-the-field talent, but a true heart for the game and an ability to fit whatever role is needed to give her team the best chance to win.
Prince has brought both those things and more to the pitch for OSU in her three years with the team. The scholar-athlete was named to both the Big Ten all-freshman team and the conference’s second team in her freshman season. She missed time with a leg injury as a sophomore, but fast-forward to last season, when Prince helped the Buckeyes play all the way to the NCAA round of 16.
In the 2015 season, Prince was tied for the team lead with six goals and was alone on top with 19 points.
She said she feels that staying focused on the moment is important, but even so, she is still trying to learn things in her time with the Olympic qualifying team that she can bring back with her to Columbus for her final year wearing scarlet and gray.
“When I come back in the fall, I want to make sure that I’m being a leader to the team and that I use my experiences that I have with the national team to really get us far,” Prince said. “I’m just trying to improve every single day and be able to impact my team at Ohio State.”
The qualifying matches are scheduled to be held in Houston starting on Feb. 11. The Canadian squad is in a group consisting of Guyana, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. The entire tournament has eight teams consisting of two groups. The top team in each group qualifies for Olympic play.
The pressures from such a big stage can have effects on the mindset of a player, but Prince said she is able to stay focused on the present and remain solely worried about the task at hand. Walker, though, said she wants to make sure that Prince immerses herself in the emotions of the big moment.
“Any time that you find yourself on a big stage, you want to really enjoy the moment and soak it in,” Walker said. “That’s one of Nichelle’s greatest qualities. Whatever stage she’s on, she plays her best and gives it her all.”