B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
By Jason Pallante (COM'02)
Sitting in T's Pub last November, eyes glued to the big-screen television, members of the BU women's soccer team waited to find out their opponent in their first trip to the NCAA tournament. The announcement that BU would play Holy Cross was, according to Nancy Feldman, the greatest moment in her tenure as women's soccer head coach.
"There hasn't been a better time at Boston University than sitting in the pub that night, watching the selection to find out the team we were going to play," says the 1997 and 2000 America East Coach of the Year. "Our name was there along with 48 other teams. Every time a school's name went up on the screen was pure edge-of-your-seat excitement."
Feldman joined the women's soccer program at BU in March 1995, shortly after it attained varsity status. Six years later, the Terriers finished their season with an NCAA tournament bid and a top-30 national ranking.
A berth in the NCAA tournament is a real feather in Feldman's coaching cap. Her first head coaching job was in 1988, at Lake Forest College in Illinois. There she guided her team to a 17-10-2 record in two years and a conference championship in 1989. She then coached both soccer and basketball at Plymouth State College and was twice Little East Conference Coach of the Year as basketball coach. But her heart was always linked to the soccer field.
"I don't miss coaching basketball," she confesses. "It was hard to head two sports programs and to be an expert in both."
At Plymouth State, Feldman led her team to a 15-1-2 record. Then she joined the Terriers, and success was immediate. Her team posted a 5-0 first-game romp over St. Joseph's and finished its first season with a 10-3-2 record. The team rapidly grew progressively better under Feldman's leadership, culminating in last season's undefeated conference mark of 9-0, an NCAA tournament bid, and a first-round win.
Despite her success, Feldman refuses to rest on past laurels at the start of the new season. "We don't want to be a one-hit wonder; we don't want to be one-year fizzle," she says. "It's important that we sustain the level of success that we've worked really hard to get."
Whether the Terriers match last season's success or not, fans will continued to swell the bleachers at Nickerson Field. The rapid evolution of women's soccer on the national and international levels and the establishment of the Women's United Soccer Association and its local franchise, the Boston Breakers, has made a tremendous impact. Last year the Breakers partnered with BU to use Nickerson as their home field, transforming it into a more soccer-friendly and professional venue. The result is a brand-new playing surface of FieldTurf, the most advanced artificial turf in the world, and national exposure that will help Feldman's recruiting efforts.
"I think the WUSA has generated for the players the idea that if they're good enough and work hard enough, they could have a future as professional athletes," says Feldman. "That has to have an impact on all collegiate women players."
Feldman points to former BU star Deidre Enos (SAR'01), who was drafted by the Philadelphia Charge. Enos became the first America East player to compete in the WUSA, making Terrier players' dreams of playing soccer for a living attainable.
"Enos showed us that it's possible for a Boston University player to make it as a pro," Feldman says. "We have someone we played with and trained with who made it, and that's very encouraging to our girls."
The new professional women's league has advanced women's athletics in the United States tremendously. "To see that people are paying money to watch young women professionals playing soccer is amazing," Feldman says. "And to see fathers taking their sons to these games -- that was not even a thought when I was playing in college."
She believes that an even greater societal change has become apparent. "What I see now is that girls and women can be accepted as great athletes -- hard, tough, physical, even nasty," she says. "That acceptance of the female athlete, of who she is on and off the field, by both men and women, is probably the most striking thing since my playing days. And it's very gratifying to me as a coach."