Nickolette Driesse Sets Winning Standard For Women’s Soccer
Nickolette Driesse is no stranger to the spotlight. The Wayne, N.J., native has been playing on the biggest stages women’s college soccer has to offer since dazzling as a freshman at Florida State, where she started 27 of 28 matches for the Seminoles, providing seven assists on her way to ACC All-Freshman honors.
In fact, Driesse has been to the National Championship in each of her first three seasons. Though Florida State fell to UCLA 1-0 in overtime in 2013, the Seminoles redeemed themselves the following year thanks to a 1-0 win over Virginia. Despite scoring her first goal and adding an assist, Driesse’s sophomore campaign in Tallahassee didn’t exactly turn out the way she had hoped, as she only made six starts.
The 5-foot-5 midfielder transferred to Penn State prior to her junior year and the move immediately paid dividends for both her and the Nittany Lions, who leaned heavily on her College Cup experience in order to capture the program’s first national title in yet another 1-0 chess match, this time versus Duke. Driesse would finish 2015 with a career-high four goals, while seeing extensive time in all 27 contests.
But Penn State’s lone senior knows as well as anybody that you can’t get complacent in the wake of success. “We were really performing very well – winning a National Championship – and coming off of that you don’t really know what you’re expecting,” Driesse said. “But I think that the coaches have done a great job driving the standard and setting the expectation.”
That kind of winning mentality has proven invaluable for a young Penn State squad hungry for more this fall. With junior Emily Ogle and four other Nittany Lions –Kaleigh Riehl, Ellie Jean, Maddie Elliston, and Rose Chandler – taking the year off to focus on making the U.S. Women’s U-20 World Cup roster, Driesse has not only become the proverbial pace setter for the midfield but for the team as a whole. Driesse has spent ample time with Team USA in her own right, playing alongside a handful of future teammates in Riehl, Chandler, and Brittany Basinger at the 2014 U-20 World Cup in Canada.
Head coach Erica Dambach recognizes the importance of having a strong veteran presence in the locker room as well as out on the pitch. “Fortunately, we do have really good leadership on this ’16 team,” Dambach said. “Megan Schafer, Nicky Driesse, and Britt Basinger have already shown their quality as captains and leaders.”
But stepping into that role didn’t happen overnight. All three recognize the enormous amount of work that last year’s legendary senior trio of Raquel Rodríguez, Britt Eckerstrom, and Mallory Weber put into making the Nittany Lions’ dreams become reality.
“Those are definitely very big shoes to fill,” Driesse said. “It’s not an easy job, but they communicated to us and they were definitely willing to lead us. And I know that that’s what it’s gonna take. We’ve gotta step up big-time, and if we can do that, hopefully we can be as successful as last year.”
Driesse, Schafer, and Basinger took the torch this offseason and have done an outstanding job running with it. “I think that we’ve developed that standard for everyone, the freshmen coming in, we just have bought into that,” Driesse said.
It’s certainly been an interesting transition for Penn State to adapt to life without five of its top players, but the defending national champs have plenty to feel good about moving forward. The Nittany Lions played extremely well at the four midfield spots, especially during their hard-fought 1-1 draw with No. 6 West Virginia in the season opener and again in an impressive 3-1 victory over Hofstra this past Sunday. “Already this [past] weekend, Marissa Sheva and Charlotte Williams and Nicky Driesse showed great chemistry,” Dambach said.
The only team ranked higher than the Nittany Lions in the NSCAA preseason poll was, you guessed it, Florida State. There’s a good chance we could be treated to one heck of a storyline come December if Driesse and company can execute according to plan.
Though Syllabus Week is just getting started, the tests keep coming for Driesse and the Nittany Lions, as No. 14 BYU comes to town for a 7:00 p.m. Whiteout on Friday at Jeffrey Field.