WMSB Exclusive Interview: Nicole Baxter (’16)

Photo credit: Ashley Intile / Sky Blue FC

Between training with Sky Blue FC and prepping for the NWSL season, women’s soccer alumna Nicole Baxter ‘16 took some time to answer questions about her time with the Tribe, overcoming challenges, and her professional career. 

In 77 appearances for the Green and Gold, Baxter netted eight goals, earning All-CAA First Team Honors during her senior year. 

The New Jersey native earned 59 starts in her illustrious career, racking up a total of 35 points during her time in Williamsburg. 

Baxter and her Sky Blue teammates will return to action on April 9th to compete in the NWSL Challenge Cup. 

SH: As a multi-sport high school athlete in softball, basketball, lacrosse, and soccer, what made you realize that soccer was what you wanted to pursue? 

NB: Out of all the sports that I played, I decided to stick with soccer solely because it was the sport I had the most fun playing. I am honestly not even sure it was my best sport, but it was always obvious to myself and everyone around me that it was by far my favorite, so when I got to high school and realized I was going to have to start prioritizing one sport, it was an easy decision to choose soccer.

SH: What attracted you to William & Mary and why did you choose to attend?

NB: I was initially attracted to William & Mary because it was both a great academic school and a great soccer school. The College is one of the best universities in the country and at the time, the soccer program was ranked in the top 25 and those were the two reasons why I was initially drawn to W&M. In the end, I chose to attend William & Mary because when I visited the school, I felt like I instantly connected with the people. The girls on the team just felt like my type of people so I committed a couple of hours after my overnight visit ended.

SH: Do you have advice for high school and college athletes who are struggling to stay fit during the pandemic, what did you do?

NB: My advice for high school and college athletes who are struggling to stay fit during the pandemic is to cut yourself some slack! Times are really difficult right now and all coaches, including the ones from my professional team, are very understanding of the circumstances. You may not have access to the same training environments that you are used to, so use this time to perfect things like nutrition, sleep, and hydration.

SH: What makes you most proud to be a William & Mary alumna?

NB: Seeing the level of success that some of my friends and former teammates and classmates have found in life after college has made me most proud to be a William & Mary alumna. The school really just attracts so many good, kind, hard working people. To see so many people I know from W&M now working in medicine, politics, government contracting, consulting, sports, and so on makes me really proud to have attended the same university as them.

SH: What lessons did you learn as a student-athlete at William & Mary that you find yourself calling on today?

NB: As a student-athlete at William & Mary I learned a lot about perseverance. As a student at a tough academic school and an athlete on a really competitive team I think I just naturally learned how to push through challenges or get through difficult times and I think learning how to be persistent during my time with the Tribe has helped me a lot as a professional athlete.

SH: When you were diagnosed with Lyme Disease, how did you overcome the challenges it presented?

NB: To overcome the challenges that I faced when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I really just had to put myself before anyone else, and I leaned heavily on family and friends to make me feel supported in doing that. I tried a lot of different medications and treatments, but a lot of people with Lyme will tell you that a way to help improve symptoms is to simply focus on doing the things you love and that is something that really helped me. It’s the whole reason I really started playing soccer again!

SH: How did your experiences playing in Sweden change your approach to soccer?

NB: Playing soccer in Sweden allowed me to play a much different type of soccer than I was used to playing in the United States. In America, the game is really transitional, so things move very quickly and very directly. In Sweden, they focus more on slowly breaking teams down, so it took some time for me to get on the same page as my teammates who didn’t have the “go go go” mentality that most U.S. players have. I think that learning to slow down and to play with people who saw the game a different way was really important for my development as an individual soccer player and as a teammate.

SH: As a New Jersey native, what’s it like to play for Sky Blue FC? 

NB: As a New Jersey native it is really cool to play for Sky Blue FC. I have a lot of friends and family close by, including a young niece and nephews, so it’s been nice to play on a team in my home state. I’ve followed this club since I was in high school when they were a part of the WPS and I’ve seen first hand how much better the club gets each and every year so it is just really special to be a part of and to contribute to that process.

SH: Your teammate, Caroline Casey ‘16 also played for Sky Blue before retiring in 2018, how does it feel to be another representative of the Tribe? 

NB: I love being able to represent the Tribe in a league that hasn’t seen too many W&M players. Caroline is a good friend of mine and I loved watching her compete on this team and prove to everyone that players from mid-major schools can play in this league. I hope that I can represent the same type of example for other athletes from William & Mary and the CAA.

SH: The Women’s Soccer team will begin their Spring season against VCU on February 25th, any words of advice for the team?

NB: My only advice to the W&M team as they start the season on February 25th is to have fun. I know it sounds cliche, but athletes can put a lot of pressure on themselves to constantly perform and sometimes that can distract us from remembering why we started playing in the first place. Have fun, enjoy being able to play the game with your friends, and the results will come!

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