Nicole Woods never realized just how popular field hockey was until she went to the USA Field Hockey National Festival in Florida over Thanksgiving weekend. At that time, the Beverly High junior was undecided whether she wanted to play field hockey or ice hockey in college.
This week, she made a verbal commitment to play Division 1 field hockey at the University of Louisville and will receive a partial scholarship, with the opportunity to increase it each year.
“I had never seen the bigger world of field hockey until then,” said Woods, the reigning Salem News Field Hockey Player of the Year who played up a level on a 19-and-Under team at the festival. “Until then I only knew about the Northeastern Conference and my club team. In Florida there were 30 games going on at the same time, and all the coaches there knew my club coach. It was an amazing time.”
Woods, an NEC all-star and Panther captain this past season, finished the year with 11 goals and 21 assists. She also plays for the Northeast Elite club team coached by Chelsea Feole.
Woods and her older sister, Corinne, are the only two Beverly players in recent memory to move on to a Division 1 college field hockey program.
The Louisville Cardinals are leaving the Big East to go to the Atlantic Coast Conference, so Woods will be part of the first recruiting class playing in that conference.
“The biggest thing I noticed about the girls at Louisville was how nice they all were,” said Woods, who has a 3.2 grade-point average. “I toured with a few other girls and then stayed with the team. They had a 7-on-7 tournament, so I got to play on their field. The whole complex was beautiful.
“The head coach, Justine Sowry, is from Australia, and the first assistant (Lucas Piccioli) is from Venezuela, so I’m going to have to get used to their accents.”