When Nichelle Prince first started playing the game at age 4, she dreaded the soccer field.
“I remember going to the field the first day and crying, asking my mom to take me home,” Prince said.
Prince, a freshman forward for the Ohio State’s women’s soccer team, didn’t shy away from the game for long, though. As soon as practice began, she fell in love with the game.
When it came time to be recruited, Prince took a nontraditional route. She did not play soccer at her high school, Pickering High School in Ajax, Ontario, for three of her four years. Instead she ran track up until her senior year, running events such as the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.
Prince said her speed is one of her most valuable qualities on the pitch, and she attributes it to her track coach and father Fabian Prince.
“I am grateful to have him as a coach,” Prince said. “He’s always pushing me and making sure I’m fit.”
Freshman forward and Prince’s roommate, Lindsay Agnew, said she admires Prince’s “explosive” speed.
“Sometimes, I’ll see the ball go in front of her and it looks like she puts a motor on her as she gets in front of everybody,” Agnew said laughing.
Coach Lori Walker is also fond of Prince’s quick pace and persistence.
“She works her tail off on both sides of the ball,” Walker said in an email. “She will track defensively with the same intensity that is seen in her attack mode.”
While she didn’t always play for her high school, Prince played club soccer her entire career.
She didn’t play with her own age group, though, instead taking on the challenges of playing with older athletes.
“At first, coaches said I was too young and that I need to go down to my age group,” Prince said.
When her first club team broke up, she joined the top club team in the province, but struggled to make a name for herself there.
“I never started, I was kind of an underdog,” Prince said. “I stuck with that team for five years and worked my way up.”
After working her way up, Prince broke into the national scene, and has since played for the U-17 and U-20 Canadian national team. Prince joined the national team at the age of 16 and said she appreciated every moment.
“It was a great opportunity,” Prince said. “I went to the World Cup in Azerbaijan, somewhere I would never have been.”
Prince has started seven of eight games this season. With her national team experience, she said she doesn’t feel pressure starting as a freshman.
“At first it’s nerve-wracking and you want to make sure you are doing what you have to for the team,” Prince said. “I’m fine now. I know my goal and I can’t be nervous. I just have to go out there and do what I have to do.”
Prince also receives support from a familiar face, 2012 second team All-American forward and 2012 graduate Tiffany Cameron. Cameron, who now plays for the Canadian women’s national soccer team, contacted Prince with some helpful tips.
“She’s been great,” Prince said. “Contacting me, making sure I do what I (have) to do.”
Prince said she respects the things Cameron did during her tenure at OSU, but she does not feel much pressure filling in the offensive gap Cameron left behind.
“She was amazing, scoring 21 goals last year,” Prince said. “I definitely want to do that, so I’m going to push hard.”
Prince is starting to step up into the offensive spotlight, tallying four assists and five goals so far this season. She leads OSU in goals and is tied for fifth in the Big Ten.
Walker said Prince has a bright future in Columbus.
“I am confident that over time (she) will be among the best goal scorers we have had at Ohio State,” Walker said.
With her hat trick and assist against Northeastern, Prince was named Big Ten Freshmen of the Week Sept. 9th.
With a 6-1-1 record, Prince and the Buckeyes begin Big Ten play against Illinois, Friday at 5 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.