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Former PVCC, ASU Soccer Stand-out to Helm Women’s Soccer

Former PVCC, ASU Soccer Stand-out to Helm Women’s Soccer

New South Mountain Community College women's soccer head coach Nicole Acosta has been playing soccer since she was four, and that lifelong love of the game has led her to the Cougars for the 2020 season. Despite the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has created, Acosta is excited to transform SMCC into a haven for four-year college prospects.

"Recruiting during this pandemic has been challenging, but I am enjoying finding new ways to recruit players," said Acosta. "COVID-19 has affected being able to meet these girls in person or even being able to see them play. I have had to do more research on players and go off of word-of-mouth from their coaches."

That being the case, one of the things Acosta is most looking forward to shortly is meeting her student-athletes.

"Usually, I have been able to watch film and high school games," Acosta said. "I wasn't sure I would be coaching again this year, but when this position opened, I had to go back and look at my notes. I had to find new ways to reach out to girls because of the current situation."

A standout at Paradise Valley Community College and Arizona State University, Acosta believes she has the experience and background to appeal to student-athletes.

"Having played at the community college and Division I helps me recruit because I can relate to players due to my experiences," Acosta said. "I know the way and can help them get to the next level if that's what they aspire to do."

That experience also exposed Acosta to several coaches who influenced her as a player and who's lessons Acosta now uses for her teams. At PVCC, Acosta played for Kacey Bingham and then served as an assistant coach as the Pumas won the 2012 NJCAA National Championship after an undefeated season.

"Coach Bingham held her teams to high standards, and that is something I have implemented with my squads," Acosta said.

At ASU, she worked with Kevin Boyd, and going from a walk-on with the Sun Devils to a starter as a senior is one of her proudest accomplishments.

"Coach Boyd gave me a chance as a walk-on, and now that I am coach, I want to make sure I am giving those opportunities to girls willing to take a chance," she added.

One of her earliest memories of the sport is playing with her brother Alex on an all-boys team. She credits the experience with helping her build mental toughness and to be aggressive.

Alex also serves as her biggest inspiration on the pitch. A standout midfielder himself, he and Nicole became the first siblings ever to earn Region Player of the Year honors in the same year.  He excelled at Glendale Community College and had a spot lined up on the squad at Grand Canyon University.

However, tragedy struck about eight years ago, and Alex lost his life. Glendale CC named their Alumni game after Acosta, and the family created a scholarship in his name at GCU. The description of the award reads:

"Alex was very active in soccer throughout his years and was accomplishing his lifetime dream of becoming a fireman with the Phoenix Fire Department. This scholarship was established to help others achieve their dreams and goals and discover their life's purpose while pursuing their continued educational goals from Grand Canyon University. Alex's parents would like to encourage students to always remember their faith, to work diligently toward their purpose, and to finish with honor."

Acosta brings some impressive coaching credentials to the Cougars after a successful stint at ACCAC rival Arizona Western.

In her two seasons in charge, the Matadors totaled 33 wins and earned consecutive conference playoff appearances. In her first season in charge, the Matadors set a new program record with 21 wins. They went on to capture the ACCAC Championship and participated in the NJCAA National Championship Tournament.

Before her time in Yuma, Ariz., Acosta was the head coach of the men's soccer team at Maya High School and led the squad to a state title.

Acosta is still in the process of completing her staff at SMCC, but she has lined up some candidates already. The prospects of a 2020 season are still in flux, although some optimism is beginning to emerge from medical professionals.

Whenever it starts, Acosta will have the Cougars working hard and fighting through whatever adversity comes in their way. That mentality has undoubtedly helped her succeed.

"I am very excited to take the position on and get started recruiting," Acosta said. "I want to thank SMCC Athletic Director Todd Eastin for the opportunity. The ACCAC is a strong conference that regularly sends teams to the NJCAA National Tournament. That is my goal for the Cougars: to build a program that will compete for conference championships and advance to the NJCAA National Tournament."