Nichelle Prince is ready to make her mark. After standout play at youth level, particularly at last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, the Canadian striker is embarking on solidifying a spot with the senior team.
She’s already scored twice for Canada at the four-nation tournament currently under way in Natal, Brazil. The Ajax, Ontario native is also coming off an outstanding junior season at Ohio State. She earned numerous accolades this fall, including being named to the Academic All-Big 10 team. She also led her team in scoring (19 points) while making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Sportsnet caught up with the 20-year-old to find out about her senior team aspirations and her goals for the future as Canada prepares for the 2016 Olympic qualifiers in February.
First of all, congratulations are in order for the lovely goal you scored versus Mexico in the tournament opener. How do you remember it unfolding?
Thanks so much. Allysha Chapman hit the ball up to Christine [Sinclair] who passed it to Jessie [Fleming]. Jessie tried to get a shot, but there was a little scramble in the box and it ended up coming back to me. I just took a one-touch shot and it went in (laughs).
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It must have felt special to get back on the scoresheet with the senior team.
Oh yeah, it was amazing. My only other goal was from two years ago. To get another goal and be on the field again was truly amazing.
As you mentioned, it’s been a couple of years since you suited up with the senior side. How have you grown since your last appearance (Jan. 16 2013)?
Obviously, tactically and technically, I’m much more clean on the ball. I’m more aggressive. The biggest thing is my confidence. I’m a little older now and a little wiser. I know my strengths and I’m confident coming in here, knowing that I can do well in this environment.
You’re playing alongside someone legendary in Christine Sinclair, but you’re also lining up with a number of youngsters such as Gabrielle Carle and Deanne Rose. How do you adapt your game to players who are at such different points in their respective careers? There’s certainly a mix there.
Absolutely. Christine is always great. That can be said for everyone though. They’re great. I enjoy talking to them on the field, being a mentor and making sure we’re on the right path. I think having the younger players, with my experience, I can help them. They even help me because we’re all trying to learn in this environment. I think for all of us, it doesn’t matter the experience level. We’re helping each other on the field and making sure we’re holding each other accountable.
Something coach John Herdman discussed a few weeks ago was that he’s hunting for strikers, specifically those who can be creative and be strong in 1 v 1 situations. Is now a good opening for you with the senior team?
I would definitely say this is a great opportunity for me. Like you said, John is looking for forwards and I think one of my strengths is going 1 v 1 and staying aggressive, going to goal and being aggressive by the goal. I think this is a really great opportunity for me to get a spot and see what I can do.
You had a very busy NCAA season with Ohio State. How do you look back on the year with the Buckeyes?
We actually had a pretty good season. We made it to the Sweet 16 [of the NCAA Tournament], so it was certainly an up and down season. It started really great by beating the number one ranked team in the beginning of the season, but we ended up losing to a team like Nebraska, too. So there were ups and downs. We really pushed through a lot of obstacles. We made it to that Sweet 16, which is pretty good for us because we haven’t been in that position for the past four years. Individually, I’m an upperclassmen now. I have more of a leadership role on the field and I was really trying to take advantage of that. I wanted to make a big presence on the field and help my team to get where they were.
What are you looking forward to as a senior next year?
It really goes by so fast and knowing that I only have one more year, there’s really nothing to lose at this point. I want to be able to be a leader for the younger players on the team and go as far as we can. I really want to have no regrets at the end of next year’s season.