NORMAN, Okla. -- The goalkeeper position can be one of the most thankless jobs in soccer. If you hold a team scoreless, the common fan believes it is because you are supposed to, whereas if the opposition scores they hold you solely responsible.
OU senior goalkeeper Jenny Nichols thrives on that pressure. She loves being the last line of defense who her teammates rely on.
The numbers Nichols has posted during her career speak to that. She has set the school's single-season record for shutouts each of the last two years and is on pace to become OU's all-time career leader in both shutouts and saves.
Nichols, however, does not concern herself with individual records and credits her teammates for her success.
Last week, we caught up with Jenny to talk about her approach to playing the goalkeeper position. She also shared some of her proudest accomplishments as a student-athlete as well as some of the things she has missed out on.
On the team's successful start to the season:
"Personally, what's allowed me to be successful so far this season would be working so hard in the offseason and staying here all summer. I credit my teammates for always pushing me, especially Tara MacDonald, our next-in-line goalkeeper. As a team, we're all working together and really starting to mesh."
On what she has to do to stay sharp during the offseason:
"I actually don't do a whole lot on the field. I do a lot of lifting and running. We started scrimmaging in July with as many people as we could, but other than that I really don't spend much time on the field."
On how she views the goalkeeper position:
"It's kind of like being the quarterback of soccer. I can see everybody and often have to tell them what to do. It's kind of my responsibility to organize the defense when they can't see what's going on behind them. I kind of live off the pressure of it. Some people could never do it, but I really feed off it. It pushes me and is kind of fun to be the one the team relies upon."
On the importance of working with the defenders:
"In practice, we do different walk-throughs and have 'chalk-talks' where we just work on communicating and telling each other where to go. The important thing is that we're all on the same page. When I say one thing, Tara might say the same thing but it means something else, so we just have to know who is saying what."
On the position being more about positioning vs. simply reaction:
"A lot of it is positioning. There are times when there is nothing you can do -- upper-net shots are all reaction, but usually if you get in the right position they don't have a shot. That's my main goal is to not let them have a shot. I'm not necessarily out there to stop a shot but rather to prevent it from happening."
On her proudest accomplishments on the soccer field:
"I guess I'm just proud of the fact that I was able to come in as a freshman and get playing time. I've really developed as a leader and feel like my teammates can trust me for different things. I'm proud of playing as much as I have and I guess some of the records just show that I haven't been doing so bad."
On how much she thinks about records:
"Someone actually asked me about one of them the other day and I didn't even know what they were talking about. I'm aware of some of them but I don't tally them or anything like that."
On the uniqueness of this year's group of seniors:
"Our senior class is interesting because we all bring something different to the table. It works for our benefit because we all have the same goal and each carry a different role in getting there."
On what it takes to balance academics and athletics:
"Time management is a big key. You have to prioritize everything and just make sure you take care of all your responsibilities."
On missing out on some of the other aspects of the college experience:
"I'm kind of excited because I'm going four-and-a-half years so after this semester I'll have a year to see what it's like. It's a different lifestyle being an athlete, but it's what I chose to do and it's been fun."
On how much she appreciates the student-athlete experience:
"It's definitely a cool accomplishment to have your school paid for and having the opportunity to be a role model, doing different things in the community and stuff like that."
On her future plans:
"I'm in health and exercise science but I'm not sure specifically what I want to do with that right now. I just know I want to stay involved in sports whether it's in the office or on the field."