Wilcox aims to improve

Mark Pawlak

A stronger Nicole Wilcox will be terrorizing opponents’ goalies for the ISU women’s soccer team this season.

Gaining a year of experience has increased the expectations for the sophomore, who will be counted on to play a huge role for the Cyclones.

Wilcox is coming off a year in which she earned second team All-Big 12 honors and is poised for a big sophomore season.

Head coach Stephanie Gabbert sees Wilcox improving with a year of play under her belt.

“I do think Nicole is one of the better attacking players in our conference,” Gabbert said. “I think that she has gotten better. Her year of experience last year should help her a great deal going into this season.”

Wilcox said she knows what to expect going into this season. She no longer has to deal with the nerves of being a freshman and knows what its going to take physically and mentally.

Iowa State is changing their playing alignment in order to bring more players up to attack their opponent’s goal. Gabbert is hoping this will give Wilcox more help on the offensive side of the ball.

“What will help her this year is we’ll have more people around her in the attack. There will be more people getting forward,” Gabbert said. “It will free her up a little bit at times, and it will always give her more space to play her teammates into, where as last year, a lot of her attacks were 50 yards long, and she was up by the goal by herself.”

Last season, Wilcox scored five goals for the Cyclones, the second most on the team. She is the only returning player to score more than one goal last year.

In her first game last season, Wilcox made an immediate impact. She set a new ISU single-game record by taking 10 shots against UAB.

Wilcox spent the summer in Ames working to improve herself for the season.

“She spent a lot of time coming by our offices and watching her own game films and really tried to evaluate what were the things that were not successful for her,” Gabbert said. “She’s a very good player. She just made a lot of freshman mistakes last year. She learned from those and that makes her so much stronger.”

Gabbert also said speed and athleticism are two attributes that help Wilcox perform well on the field.

Wilcox worked this summer to improve those two qualities. She worked out with the team’s strength coach three days a week beginning at 6 a.m., in addition to her individual workouts and workouts with teammates.

“The fast footwork that I was doing over the summer has really helped me,” Wilcox said. “It was a lot of explosive work. So my first two steps are a lot faster than they were last year to help me defeat my defenders.”

Wilcox said she is working to improve on her abilities to put the ball in the net. Last season, she led the Cyclones in shots taken, but wasn’t able to finish in the box at times.

“I have to realize that as a forward that you’re going to shoot 20 shots, but only get one in and, that’s what soccer’s about. You just have to keep on shooting,” Wilcox said.

As a sophomore, she will not be lacking confidence to take shots.

“Last year, there was a tendency that I lost confidence if I wasn’t hitting the frame. This year, I feel my mentality is a lot stronger than I was last year,” Wilcox said. “I’ve grown as a player. I’m going to keep my head up and not worry if I shank a couple shots. I’m going to keep on going for that net.”