The College of Wooster women’s lacrosse team was the cream of the crop in the North Coast Athletic Conference in the early 2000s, and with a stopper like Nicole Pritchard anchoring the defense, it definitely came as no surprise.
Pritchard exploded onto the scene with 41 groundballs and 25 caused turnovers as a rookie, and went on to earn the NCAC’s Newcomer-of-the-Year trophy and the first of four Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association all-region certificates. Pritchard’s play marked the final piece of the puzzle on some of the deepest teams in program history, but Wooster wasn’t able to finish assembling said puzzle until the following year.
As a sophomore, Pritchard and company extracted revenge from a loss to Denison University in the NCAC Tournament championship game with a complete effort in the 2002 rematch. The Scots erupted for four goals over the final 10:31 to beat top-seeded Denison and take home the program’s first NCAC championship. On the other end of the field, the Scots’ defensive line held the Big Red to 23 shots on the afternoon. Individually, Pritchard scooped up five groundballs, and overall, Wooster had over a three-to-one advantage in that stat.
Wooster’s stingy defense yielded 7.8 goals and 22.8 shots per game during that season, while individually, the defensive standout scooped up 45 groundballs and caused 37 turnovers en route to earning the first of three consecutive first-team all-conference certificates.
Defensively, Wooster’s 2003 team was perhaps the best ever in program history as the Scots held the opposition to a goals-per-game average just north of seven and a meager 21 shots per game. A second-straight NCAC championship followed at season’s end, thanks to one-goal victory over Denison in the championship game of the NCAC Tournament. Wooster scored twice within a minute, with Allison Harrod’s goal with 7:01 remaining holding up as the game winner. Pritchard, who scooped up seven groundballs in the contest – including on the rebound of a game-tying shot attempt with just over two minutes to play – was part of a defensive charge that held the Big Red to 19 shot attempts.
Wooster’s rapid ascension as a program continued in 2004. That year, the Scots went unbeaten in conference play for the first time in program history, and won a third straight NCAC championship courtesy of a 10-6 win over Allegheny College. The win in the championship game of the NCAC Tournament marked another significant milestone for the program, as it was Wooster’s 13th win of the year, a new program record.
Pritchard continued to be a staple on the all-conference and all-region teams, only this time the IWLCA selected Pritchard and teammate Megan Sward to its All-America Team, and no Scot has earned All-American honors since.
With the NCAA officially recognizing caused turnovers, draw controls, and groundballs as statistics beginning in 2000, Pritchard established the program’s record for caused turnovers with 110 for her career, and only one Scot since has surpassed that mark. Upon graduation, Pritchard ranked fourth all-time at Wooster with 151 groundballs.
Originally, a two-sport standout, Pritchard played field hockey as a first-year and sophomore, and helped the Scots win the 2001 NCAC championship and return to the Div. III national field for the first time since 1996.
The art history alumna originally chose the College due to knowing she’d be able to excel in the close-knit community. She “loved the campus and then-head coach Liz Grote.”
Pritchard’s passion for the game led to her coaching at Utica College and Savannah College of Art and Design before shifting career paths to the creative field. She’s currently a design manager at Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Personally, Pritchard is married to Ryan Hyland, and the couple has one child, Keagan (2), and now calls Chicago, Ill. home.