All of her teammates are waiting patiently inside the box; each fan has their eyes fixated on her. The game is on the line and Nicole Fowler has the ball in her hands.
She takes a few steps back breathing deeply with every step. All the while she is marking her target nearly half away across the field. It happens so fast it could easily be missed with a small lapse of concentration. She goes for it with no regard for her body, running up gracefully flipping over the ball.
As it flies beautifully through the air, all you can hear is the sound of an astonished crowd, as a simple throw-in just changed the game. For most teams this scene could never take place. For the Springfield College Pride it happens every game. Junior forward Nicole Fowler is the reason for that.
It all started roughly seven years ago with young Fowler happily kicking the ball around with her father. Her athletic talent was no secret at this point. Her dad, more than anybody else, could see it.
Years of dancing gave her the ability to pull off front handsprings with ease, and that is when the idea popped into Bob Fowler’s head. He had some experience with flip throw-ins – and his daughter was the perfect candidate to learn the art. She accepted the challenge with a youthful lack of fear.
Of course a developmental stage was necessary, but before long Fowler had added a dangerous new weapon to her already loaded arsenal.
“She tried a few times, and once she trusted herself and got over the fear of breaking her arms, she found the perfect release point to achieve the furthest throw,” said Bob Fowler.
Now in her third year with the Pride, Fowler is using all of the weapons to help lead them to another successful season. The team, which is coming off of a NEWMAC championship, looks poised to make another deep run in the conference and potentially national tournaments.
With just three games remaining in the regular season, Fowler has really asserted herself as the team’s most valuable player. At nine points ahead of all of her teammates, Fowler has racked up 19 points… seven of which are goals.
Her talent has clearly earned her the role as the focal point of the Pride offense. In the 14 games played this year Fowler has racked up 15 more shots than any other player on the team.
Adding the flip throw to her other explosive talents makes Fowler an irreplaceable piece to Springfield’s attack. Coach John Gibson appreciates the half dozen or so opportunities inside the six-yard box each game.
“It’s a great weapon because she has more control over it than a corner does,” said Gibson.
In soccer many opportunities will turn into nothing throughout a game and many of Fowler’s throws have ended that way. With that said adding five or six corners to an attack provides the Pride with a major advantage.
“Nicole’s throw-ins are very valuable to our team,” said junior Krissy Cicalis. “They give us an edge over other teams.”
That edge is playing no small part in the dynamic five game win streak the (9-3-2) Pride is currently riding. Another contributing factor would be Fowler’s inherent leadership skills. The junior forward was voted to be a captain by her teammates, which speaks volumes about the respect they all have for her.
“Nicole is a natural leader on the team. She is very good helping everyone stay level-headed and positive during tough situations,” said Cicalis.
Fowler has fully embraced this new leadership role; in fact it might even be the thing she is most proud this season. She is able to lead vocally and by example, which is why the Pride has been able to play so well this season.
“Our team is having a lot of success and we and can only go up from here,” said Fowler. Springfield currently sits in a tie for second in the conference and near the top for all of New England.
With the team’s final home game this Saturday, there is still a lot of work left to be done. Regular season success is outweighed greatly by postseason success. With that said the work that Nicole Fowler has put in already is most definitely worth being proud of. Her father certainly is.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to see when people in the stands see it for the first time, and it’s even better to hear the nice comments from opposing team’s fans when they see it,” said Fowler.
This is an experience that he has had quite a bit by now, considering that he is in the stands for almost all of Nicole’s games.
This is a fact not lost on Nicole. Going back to the first time she was introduced to the flip throw, her father has always been there. That unconditional support undoubtedly contributed to the amazing maturation process for Nicole both as a soccer player, and as a young adult.
“It was cool that he was the one that showed me how to do it,” said Fowler of her father. Over time she has gained the confidence to rise above the occasional mishaps.
“There have been a couple of times when I fell on my butt during games.” she admits.
But none of it would have been possible without the initial push from her father.
Springfield College is filled with student athletes covering a range of sports, but few represent their school and team as well as Nicole Fowler. She has taken the extra time on and off the field to master all of the skills she needs to best help her team.
The Pride are fortunate to have her amazing abilities around for what could be another exciting postseason run this year. The team will be taking the pitch on Saturday at 1 p.m. against WPI.
This is their second to last home game, and a critical one for conference positioning, making this a perfect time for the flip throw to strike again.