Marc Narducci: Eustace midfielder Nicolette Wilkins always on attack

"I like trying to do moves around people," says Bishop Eustace midfielder Nicolette Wilkins (10). The senior, who plays club ball for PDA South, is bound for Drexel. MARC NARDUCCI / Staff
"I like trying to do moves around people," says Bishop Eustace midfielder Nicolette Wilkins (10). The senior, who plays club ball for PDA South, is bound for Drexel. MARC NARDUCCI / Staff
Posted: September 22, 2012

On too many occasions, soccer players on all levels play it safe, which is why it's refreshing to watch Bishop Eustace senior Nicolette Wilkins compete.

She truly lives up to her position: attacking midfielder.

Wilkins thrives on the challenge of taking on a defender one on one.

"In terms of training, even with little kids, coaches are so tactical, and it often takes away the creativity. . . . We are not as creative as, say, the Europeans, who are really dynamic," said Eustace's second-year coach Lindsey Finnegan.

"Nicolette has that [style], in that she wants to try to beat the defender one on one."

Finnegan knows a little about taking players on. She was an Inquirer South Jersey player of the year at Gloucester Catholic and earned a scholarship to Villanova after scoring 111 goals in high school.

She wants her players to be aggressive, but not reckless.

Wilkins doesn't have to be prodded on the aggressive part.

"I like trying to do moves around people and taking on defenders one on one and trying to finish," Wilkins said.

Actually, she is very happy to be finishing and starting.

During the preseason of her sophomore year, Wilkins suffered a right anterior cruciate ligament injury, which sidelined her for the season.

This is a common injury in soccer. But that doesn't mean, even with the advancements in medical procedures, that it's easy for players to go through.

Wilkins had to go through the laborious routine of one leg exercise after another, making progress little by little.

Last season, she played for Eustace, but the first year back had its pitfalls.

"Coming back, it was really hard, getting my confidence back," Wilkins said.

That is because, among other things, she had to learn to trust her rehabilitated knee. Slowly, the confidence came back, and so did her game.

In fact, Wilkins, who plays club ball for PDA South, began attracting attention from colleges last year. And by the spring of her junior year, Wilkins had decided to accept a partial soccer scholarship to Drexel.

In recruiting in all sports, college coaches want players to make commitments earlier and earlier. It's good for the school to know which players will be coming in, and also good for the player, taking a huge amount of stress out of the equation.

"Now I can focus on getting ready for my school instead of [thinking about] what school I will be attending," she said.

And most of all, Wilkins, like so many who have missed a year because of injury, earned a greater affinity for the sport once it was taken away from her.

"The injury made me realize how much I loved soccer and would do anything to play," she said. "It was really tough, but [it was] a good lesson, and it made me appreciate the game a little more."

Wilkins might not always beat defenders one on one, but she won't be stopped all the time, either.

Most importantly, she is another year removed from her injury, playing the game with unbridled joy and relishing each and every chance to take on a defender, regardless of the outcome.


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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