Allegheny soccer Hall of Fame adds Butler grad

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

Mia Hamm inspired an entire generation of young soccer players.

Allison Pyewell Nichols had a chance to learn from the American legend in person — and it helped her form her own distinguished career on the soccer field as well as off it.

Nichols, a 1995 Butler graduate, will be one of six athletes inducted into the Allegheny College Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 18.

“It was definitely a surprise to hear about that,” she said. “I think about playing soccer a lot. It was such a huge part of my life. It truly developed me into the person I am. It definitely made me very good at time management skills. You don't even realize it until after the fact about all the team skills you learn and how to work with other people. It made me a competitive, driven person that I still am.”

Nichols was a standout for the Golden Tornado in high school and played many positions, even moving to sweeper to help bolster the team's defense.

“I got recruited to go to Allegheny as a sweeper,” Nichols said. “But after seeing I could bring the ball up the field, I was mostly a center midfielder throughout my college career.”

A University of North Carolina soccer camp encounter with Hamm, who was a Tar Heels standout, helped Nichols take her game to an even higher level.

“I liked to bring the ball up, but sometimes I would distribute and sometimes I would dribble more,” she said. “The summer after my sophomore year of high school, we were at that camp and Mia Hamm was my coach. She was by far the biggest influence on my career. My game just dramatically changed.

“I wanted to dribble around people a lot. She pressed upon me to get something done with the ball no matter what. My mindset changed after that. It was the most incredible experience to have. That seemed to be a turning point in how I played.”

Nichols believes she became more of a well-rounded player. It showed throughout her Allegheny career.

She was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time captain for the Gators.

She graduated in 1999 among the top four in program history in career goals (31) and points (73). She helped the team to a 52-26-3 record during her four years. Allegheny won a school record 17 consecutive games and had a 21-game home unbeaten streak that spanned the entire 1996 and '97 seasons.

In addition, she was the 1998 winner of the Allegheny Scholar-Athlete Award and 1999 North Coast Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Award.

She was a four-time All-NCAC honoree, ending her career with three consecutive first-team nods.

Nichols is one of just five players in program history to earn three consecutive All-Great Lakes Region honors (1996-98), and she was named to the NCAC's 20th Anniversary All-Decade Team in 2003.

“You just kind of go through things and try your best. You don't think about it, but when those kinds of honors come up, it does reaffirm all the hard work you put into it and everything you worked through,” she said.

“It makes you appreciate it. It's not always easy; I spent some long nights studying. To be recognized makes you appreciate what you did do and that you stuck with it.”

Nichols applied the lessons learned from the sport to a career as a physician assistant.

Nichols' husband, Josh, was a standout for the Allegheny men's soccer team. They have three children: Seth (9), Sydney (7) and Travis (2). Both parents are active in coaching their children in soccer.

“Josh and I both love the game so much,” Nichols said. “We had such a wonderful experience playing, and it brought us so many great times and friendships. We want our kids to experience that, too.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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