Erin Nicholas ’22 entered high school with the intention of playing soccer. But the day before tryouts, she switched course and chose to play field hockey with her older sister.
Nearly a decade later, the two-time field hockey national player of the year laughs about this defining moment in her athletic career.
“The [high school field hockey] coaches told me that if they saw me on the soccer field, they would pull me by the ponytail over to field hockey,” Nicholas said in an interview with The Campus. “I wanted to play [field hockey] with my sister. I heard great things about the team from her and I wanted to be a part of that.”
“That’s why I chose to play field hockey. And I’m very grateful I did.”
When the Middlebury field hockey team took home their fourth consecutive national title on Sunday, Nov. 21, there was no doubting that Nicholas, a midfielder and captain, was the star of the show.
This fall, Nicholas paced the Panthers in goals (28) and points (64), helping the team to a NESCAC title, national championship and an undefeated record (22–0). She made history in November, becoming the first ever NESCAC field hockey player to win three straight conference player of the year honors. The only year she didn’t win — her rookie year in 2017 — she was the league’s rookie of the year.
The accolades that Nicholas has garnered over her four years at Middlebury could fill up an entire article and then some. Most notably, she is a two-time national field hockey player of the year and is pushing to win it a third time (the winner is expected to be announced later this month).
“We’d all agree we’re lucky to have Erin [on the team],” goalkeeper Grace Harlan ’22.5 told The Campus. “It’s been an honor playing with her.”
While the Panthers went undefeated this fall, several opponents put up a fight. Middlebury was pushed into overtime periods against Tufts (Oct. 10) and Williams (Oct. 26) this fall, and trailed Bowdoin, 3–0, in the NESCAC Championship (Nov. 7). The common thread in all of these eventual wins? Clutch play from Nicholas. The midfielder scored both of the decisive overtime goals against Tufts and Williams, and against Bowdoin, she scored three of the team’s four goals en route to a 4–3 comeback triumph.
“If we’re down, you want Erin to have the ball,” Harlan said.
In the NCAA Tournament, Nicholas scored six goals in four games — at least one every game — earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. She had two goals in the national championship game against Johns Hopkins, propelling the team to a 4–1 victory.
The field hockey captains pose with the national champion trophy, alongside head coach Katherine DeLorenzo. From left: DeLorenzo, Erin Nicholas ’22, Isabel Chandler ’21.5, Danielle Brown ’21.5. (Courtesy of Will Costello)
After celebrating the national championship in front of cameras and the crowd, the field hockey team retreated into their locker room, celebrating their win by dancing to their favorite music. Then, it was off to McDonalds, where the team bought McFlurrys — now a growing tradition. According to Harlan, it is in these moments that Nicholas’ contributions are just as meaningful.
“[She’s] one of the kindest, most enthusiastic souls. I'll never forget meeting her when I did my overnight here,” Harlan explained. “She was so excited to meet us all, to welcome us to the team. She loves Middlebury field hockey and works to know every individual and to welcome them. She leads by example, always cleaning up the field, doing the extra sprint, showing up everywhere on time. She shows us what strong character means every day.”
Nicholas’ legacy on the field hockey team won’t fade any time soon. The senior finishes her career with 161 points (65G, 31A), helping the team go 84–4 since the beginning of the 2017 season. The team has won 30 straight games and 47 straight at home on Kohn Field. Looking forward, Nicholas says she couldn’t have more confidence in the team, noting “the program is in great hands.”
“It’s a little surreal that it’s all over, but a lot of happy memories came out of this fall,” Nicholas said. “I couldn't have asked for a better team. The reason why we have success on the field is because of the relationships we have off the field. We had such a special group of people this season.”
After a jam-packed fall season, Nicholas is finally able to exhale and enjoy some downtime. She looks forward to backyard hockey sessions at her home in Scarsdale, N.Y., this winter with her four siblings, all of whom played varsity sports in college as well. Two of her siblings, Michaela and Stephen, played varsity sports at Franklin & Marshall; her oldest brother, James is a professional golfer after playing for Yale; and her younger brother, Brian, just committed to play hockey at the University of Michigan.
“We put up a little ice rink every year in our backyard and still do,” Nicholas said. “All of us go out and skate together. Definitely a lot of sibling competition, but in the most fun way possible.”
Once Nicholas returns to campus in January, the two-sport athlete will begin practicing with the lacrosse team, which she’s been a member of since her freshman year. In 2019, the team won the national title, with Nicholas being named an IWLCA First-Team All-American selection that season.
With the lacrosse team returning a core group of star players this spring, Nicholas and the team will have sights on winning a national championship come the spring. If they do go all the way, it will mark Nicholas’ sixth national championship while at Middlebury.
“What she’s accomplished on the field is unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Harlan said. “Year after year, day in and day out, she sets the bar.”
Blaise Siefer ‘23 is the Senior Sports Editor.
Siefer is majoring in Sociology and plans to minor in Spanish.
Now in his third year writing for The Campus, Siefer has covered several varsity teams and has written numerous feature stories for the sports section. Last year, he began to host and produce a sports podcast, Siefer's Scoop, which he will continue to run throughout the '21-22 academic year. The podcast tells the stories of Middlebury's varsity athletes, both past and present.
Siefer is also the co-president of Middlebury Club Soccer.