The city of Salem is famous for many things: its beautiful oceanfront views and picturesque architecture, but mostly for the witch trials of 1692. While the city embraces its legacy as the “Witch City”, it might have been just a lit bit of magic that led Nicolle Wood to play soccer at Salem State.
Coming from an athletic family, Wood grew up playing the trifecta of basketball, soccer and softball. Although she loved softball, it was the problem-solving side of soccer that intrigued her. In high school, she began as a midfielder but due to injuries, Wood, a team captain offered to take a shot at being in goal. It was a decision that shaped her future.
“I loved the pressure, and ability to have an effect on the team as the goalie,” Wood said. “I made 48 saves in a game versus Andover, a state powerhouse which brought the attention of college recruiters.”
Wood had a few choices when looking at her future college career. During her senior year of high school, Wood decided to attend Quinnipiac where she was slated to start in goal as the school transitioned from DII to DI. However, a family emergency made Wood rethink her decision and take a closer look at Salem State.
“I made my mind up that I was going to attend Quinnipiac,” Wood said. “Due to my family emergency, I wanted to be closer to home and that was Salem State. I figured once things get better I’ll go transfer to Quinnipiac, but I fell in love with everything Salem and never looked back. “
Despite having to sit her freshman season, it wasn’t long before Wood made her mark on the Vikings’ women’s soccer program. The team claimed four straight MASCAC Championships, which at the time were based on regular season results since there wasn’t a tournament or automatic qualifier. This meant each school had to receive an at-large bid in order to make the NCAA Tournament.
“Since it was all at-large bids, we had to play better teams to prove ourselves,” Wood said. “We played against UMass-Amherst and Briana Scurry, Player of the Year winners and All-Americans. You knew if you put the Salem women’s soccer uniform on, people knew you were good.”
The success of the team was great, but it was the relationships she made with her coaches and teammates that left a lasting impression. They still talk regularly, attend Salem games and support each other no matter what comes their way.
Wood went on to graduate in 1995 with her degree in movement science. It didn’t take long for her to land back at Salem as an assistant coach in 1996. In 2007, she received the offer of a lifetime…be the head coach and administrator at her alma mater.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity that was given to me when I became full time with Salem,” Wood said. “Tim Shea (former Athletic Director) gave me the chance and I was able to become one of the first full-time female staff in our department.”
Along with her coaching responsibilities, Wood serves as the department’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) advisor. Considering this one of the most rewarding parts of her job, she loves seeing how the student-athletes provide support for each other whether it is someone from the tennis team or men’s ice hockey squad. They invest in each other and she loves sharing that story.
Although she wears many hats for the school, coaching is still a large part of her day-to-day life. She credits her former coach Stephen Sherriff for getting her interested in coaching as a student-athlete and her fellow coaches today for keeping her strong.
“On the bus after a game, Coach Sherriff came up to me and said you should be a coach someday,” Wood said. “It was like a lightbulb went off. The fact that he thought I should be a coach meant that I should do it. I can text him now and get “Steve-isms” that remind me why we were so successful. I feel like a good core of female coaches surrounds me. I know I can call Deb Raber at MCLA, Kristina Kern at Framingham State or Jodi Kenyon at Endicott and find support.”
It has been 24 years since Wood last walked off the pitch as a student-athlete and she has been able to see firsthand how the game has changed especially in the conference. With the MASCAC now having an AQ and tournament, she sees the level of competition amongst the eight schools getting stronger and anyone can win on any given day.
Call it fate, coincidence or a little bit of magic that brought Wood to Salem State, but she will always say one thing about her time there…she is grateful.