On a hot, sunny day in Tempe, graduate student forward Nicole Douglas had a determined, focused, and disciplined look on her face as she warmed up for her game against the Blazers of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Douglas was just two goals shy of 51, which would break Stacy Tullock's Sun Devil goal record. She was ready to make history.
The Sun Devils opened the game quickly against the Blazers as Douglas found the back of the net in the fifth minute. With being one goal away, the anticipation began to grow.
Nicole Douglas is one of the premier names in women’s college soccer. The London native was the nations leading-goal scorer while being a third-team All-American and also a part of Chelsea Football Club Women's team, and even had some international appearances for England at the youth level.
Douglas has always been an athlete as her parents grew up playing rugby and competing in synchronized swimming. Coming from an athletic family, her twin brother influenced her love for soccer.
“We’d be in the back garden, and you know, he wants someone to kick the ball around with, and as his sister, I went out and played with him pretty much every single day,” Douglas said.
In England, Douglas said it is not uncommon for girls to play on boys sports teams growing up played on a team with her brother. She enjoyed playing soccer with her brother so much and decided that it would be the sport for her.
While playing on the boys team, Douglas honed many important skills to become the soccer player she is today. She improved her fitness, learned how to be more physical on the ball and how to play at a faster, yet controlled pace.
Before arriving at ASU, Douglas played on the Chelsea women's team for 11 years and got the opportunity to play for England’s U15 to U19 national team. Even with this resume at such a young age, Douglas still wanted something more from her soccer career.
Coach Graham Winkworth recruited Douglas back in the summer of 2017 and knew that she was the kind of player that he wanted at Arizona State. Recruiting international players has been on the rise and becoming more and more popular with Winkworth at the helm.
“She’s a natural finisher, and her work rate is well, and she was extremely hard working, which is something I look for in a player, but particularly forwards,” Winkworth said.
After about a years' worth of recruiting, Douglas concluded that it was an offer she could not refuse and decided to commit to the Sun Devils.
“I wanted to experience something a little different," Douglas said. "I was at Chelsea for such a long time, and I was very comfortable there, and I kind of wanted to step out of my comfort zone and experience something different. When the offer came up to play in the Pac-12 conference, one of the best conferences in the nation, it was like an opportunity that I could not pass up."
Early on, it became clear that Winkworth's recruiting effort was beginning to pay off as Douglas recorded nine goals and four assists in just 14 appearances in her debut season. Winkworth was very impressed with her quality of play. The progression for Douglas continued as she developed into one of the nation's prominent players, culminating in her 2021 senior season in which she scored 19 goals and contributed seven assists.
“When you rewatch the goal that she scored that broke the record, she went over and celebrated with her whole team over in the bench area. That right there emphasizes her as a person and a personality because she did not go into celebrating by herself,” Winkworth said.
Not only does she put the team before herself, but Douglas also has a great relationship with her teammates.
Graduate student midfielder Alexia Delgado has been teammates with Douglas for the past five seasons and serves as team captain. She has put in many hours on and off the pitch with Douglas. The two have formed a lethal combination that has tallied 58 goals and 31 assists during their time together.
"I know how she plays, and she knows how I play, so I think that translates to the field," Delgado said. "Having someone like her up top, she's always going to have one [opportunity], and she knows she only needs that one to put it in the back of the net," Delgado said.
Delgado and the rest of her teammates knew what Douglas could do that day against UAB. They wanted it just as bad as her, and they let her know.
"Every time I got the ball, my teammates were cheering me on," Douglas said. "They knew how close I was, and I was glad to have that support from my teammates."
It was in the 67th minute when the opportunity came for Douglas. After receiving the ball from junior defender Lucy Johnson, Douglas faced two defenders and the keeper. Douglas split two defenders and fired the record-breaking shot toward the bottom right corner of the net.
She scored her 51st goal in a Sun Devil uniform, putting Nicole Douglas in the annals of ASU athletic glory. Finally, in her last season, at the top of ASU soccer.
Reflecting on the day, Douglas surprisingly did not think too much about the record. It was just a normal game day where she had two ideas in mind; win the game and focus on the team.
But the record was lingering in the back of her mind.
"It was motivation to me, even more, I thought, 'Oh my god, I can do this in this game,'” Douglas said. “When I scored, I didn't know what to say and didn't know how to react. I just started screaming. Then I looked over to my teammates; they were jumping up in the air. It's just something words can't describe. I don't think it's sunk in yet."
Douglas' teammates and coaches couldn't be more proud of what she has achieved. And that speaks volumes about Douglas as a person.
Douglas has cemented herself in the record books with the most goals scored, leaving her second to none.
Edited by Walker Smith, Logan Stanley and Kristen Apolline Castillo.