Trying to balance academics and athletics is hard enough at the college level, regardless of what division you are playing at, and Bard College senior Nicole Ellin increased the difficulty level further by being a standout in two sports. Not only does she have to balance school work with practice and games, but also balance her yearlong commitments to two programs, soccer and lacrosse.
The Franklin High grad leads the Raptors in minutes played this fall, starting all eight of Bard’s games so far this season and all but one game in four years, and is also, already, a two-time captain for the lacrosse program and played in every game over three seasons with one more spring to come.
While Ellin admits that she had to learn how to manage her time to be fully committed to soccer, lacrosse, and her studies as a psychology major, this was exactly what she was looking for when she searched for the right school four years ago.
“It’s hard with school work sometimes because of the workload, but it keeps me busy,” Ellin said. “It’s my last seasons for both sports so I want to be there for both lacrosse and soccer. It’s hard to be around for both sports and be part of both teams completely, which I am, but you have to separate your time.”
She added, “I’ve been playing the two sports my whole life, so I don’t know what I would do with my free time to be honest.”
Ellin jumped right from high school into the starting lineup at Bard, helping the soccer team capture its first ever Liberty League victories (the school moved from the Skyline Conference starting in the 2011 season), win eight games, and reach the semifinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Div. III Metro/Upstate Championships.
Over her four years, the Raptors have won at least seven games every season and entered Saturday’s league matchup with highly-ranked William Smith College (N.Y.) at 4-3-1.
“She’s been a big part of the growth of our program over her tenure here – and she’s been a joy to work with,” Bard soccer coach William Kelly wrote in an email. “She’s been a role model to our younger players, representing the program with pride, integrity, and class…She is never satisfied, and constantly works to get better; and she is also very consistent in terms of her great effort and her high expectations of herself and the team.”
Ellin credited the high level of play at Franklin for preparing her for the rigors of college soccer and lacrosse, particularly the physicality. She also joined Bard soccer as part of a strong freshman class, which helped her quickly get acclimated, and as the program grew over the last three years it has pushed her to continue developing her game to maintain her starting spot.
“I still get nervous every game but I’m definitely more comfortable now playing at the college level,” she explained. “I know what I’m going to see within our league and I know how physical it’s going to be and I know how hard I have to work over the summer and at practices to be at the level where I want to be.”
Ellin added, “From being at Franklin, my competitiveness is still there and I like that our team is growing and we have to work hard for a spot.”
As a freshman on the lacrosse team, Ellin led the team in goals (27), points (33), free-position goals (10), and draw controls (48). She was also second on the team in assists and ground balls and third in turnovers caused. She was named an All-Liberty League honorable mention in each of her first two seasons and is now just 24 points shy of 100 for her career.
She also stepped into a leadership role early in her collegiate lacrosse career, being voted a captain prior to both her sophomore and junior seasons. Bard lacrosse coach Mary Kate Scardillo said that Ellin was the first sophomore captain that she has coached, but that her leadership was obvious from the start and it was a natural fit.
Scardillo explained, “She is a composed leader with a team-first attitude and has acted with the program’s best interest at heart. She has set an example of commitment, resilience and patience. Nicole has a genuine love for the games of soccer and lacrosse. She is wired to be a part of a team and work with others towards a common, greater goal.”
For Ellin, it was an opportunity to grow as a player and person. “We’re all so close as a team that we all hang out together,” she said, “and you just have to be there for everybody for their school work and their social life. It’s being a leader on and off the field.”
While at Franklin, Ellin put together a remarkable resume. The soccer (69-6-11) and girls lacrosse (66-18) teams combined for a 135-24-11 record over four years. Ellin went to a combined four sectional title games, winning three of them, and won a state title in soccer as a sophomore in 2012. She was also part of the lacrosse team’s first ever sectional title as a junior and went undefeated in the Hockomock League over her final three seasons.
Committing your time and effort to two college programs is easy when the teams are winning. It becomes much more difficult when the hard work and the hours invested don’t lead directly to success on the field. For someone who experienced so much success during her high school career, Ellin had to adjust, but this has given her a different perspective on the exertion that she and her teammates put in each season.
“The team helps you through it,” she said. “Even when you’re losing, it doesn’t feel like it. I know the scores looked not great sometimes but everybody is still working so hard and you do it for the little things. You set small goals.
“We have to play hard because we have something to prove.”
The Raptors have just started Liberty League play this fall, and she still has lacrosse in the spring, but Ellin can’t help but think about the fact that her collegiate career is nearing its close.
“I’m definitely starting to get sad that it’s ending,” Ellin admitted. “We have a lot of season left, but I keep thinking that I want it to slow down because I’m not ready for it be over yet.
“I just keep thinking that it’s our last chance to put our mark on the program.”