Nicole Cunningham contests MVU’s Emily Graham for the ball in early October.

RICHFORD — Richford Junior-Senior High School student, Nichole Cunningham, scored three goals in two games for the Rockets girls’ varsity soccer team in the first full week of play.

Cunningham, who’s spent most of her high school soccer career on defense, scored her first varsity goal against Oxbow (9/26) and quickly tallied two more against Winooski (9/29).

“Madeline Pike and Ella Chagnon passed the ball to me as the goalie was coming toward me,” said Cunningham. “I didn’t give up; I kicked it, and it went in. I was so excited!”

In Winooski, Cunningham was also assisted by Pike.

“She passed the ball to me, and I kicked it with my left foot, it was a beautiful kick in the right corner,” said Cunningham.

“Madeline is a sophomore, and she is excellent at passing the ball. We work so well together, and she’s always there to help me on the field.”

Adjusting to the position of striker took some time, but Cunningham was up for the challenge.

“At the beginning of the season, I practiced on defense. Going into the game and playing striker was different, but I loved it,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham has been on varsity for three years; this year her coaches, Abby Coon and Katja Langmaid decided to mix things up.

“This year my coaches decided to try me at striker, and I was glad to do it. I scored within the first ten minutes. My goal was to score this year, so achieving that already was great.”

Cunningham loves her Rocket soccer family.

“We are super comfortable with each other. It feels good to be part of a close team,” said Cunningham.

This season, Cunningham, a senior, was selected as captain of the team.

“I enjoy cheering people on and giving them advice, and I love getting ready for games and making sure we’re having fun. I like to compliment my teammates, and I know it makes them happy.”

Cunningham began playing soccer in high school; Langmaid and Coon have been with her from the beginning.

“I love my coaches, and I look up to them. They are great coaches, and they’re a lot of fun!”

Teammates and coaches are essential for the game, but fans also play an important role in the lives of athletes.

“The fans in Richford are amazing. The boys always come to our games and cheer us on, and Everyone is so supportive. I couldn’t ask for better fans! Their support makes us work harder.”

When it comes to support, Cunningham is grateful for the amount she has. It’s been especially helpful during the COVID season.

“My coaches inspire me to do well, and without my team, I wouldn’t be here. I also want to thank our assistant coach, Karen Chagnon,” said Cunningham.

“Vanessa, my little sister, is a sophomore. She’s been playing soccer since elementary school. I watched her before I began to play. She seemed to have such a great time, that I decided I wanted to play, too!

“I love working as a team and doing something that we are all passionate about. I love being on the field and in the game! I’m extremely grateful to be able to play my final year!

Coon and Langmaid shared their thoughts on Cunningham as a player and a person.

“Nikki is a silent leader; her hard work and willingness to learn speak far louder than her voice. She always shows up to practice and gives her full attention, isn’t afraid to ask questions, and isn’t afraid to try new things to better herself,” said Coon and Langmaid.

“She never questions or doubts when we ask her to play a new position. This year Nikki has become one of the more versatile players on the team, giving her the opportunity to earn her first three goals of her high school soccer career.

“Her skills and soccer IQ have improved tremendously over the last few years, earning trust and support throughout the team. You can’t ask for a harder working individual on and off the field. She has the attitude that any coach would be lucky to have on the team.”

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