On a bitterly cold and windy November afternoon in Northbrook, the Lake Forest Scouts, and their varsity field hockey captain Cat Nicholson, took on the Raiders from North Shore Country Day School in the 2017 IHSFHA State Championship.
With time winding down in the second half, it was looking like a 1-0 lead was not going to be enough for the Scouts to hang on. The Raiders offense was starting to threaten with more and more scoring opportunities being created in front of the Scouts net. With about 15 minutes left to play in the second half, the Scouts started to push the ball forward towards the Raiders goal. The ball ended up on Catherine Nicholson’s stick and just like that, in typical Nicholson fashion, the Scouts were up 2-0 and on their way to their second state championship in two years. It was a perfect ending to a perfect field hockey career at the high school.
Cat first picked up a field hockey stick in first grade while playing in the New Vision Athletics house league. From there, her field hockey career took off. Nicholson’s list of athletic accomplishments during her time at LFHS is certainly long: two state championships, three years of varsity competition, senior captain, NHFHCA All Region Member, All Conference, All State and a member of the state All Star Team. Even more impressive than all of those accolades, however, is her incredible work ethic and resilience.
Cat’s senior season got off to a slow start because of an injury that hung around longer than she would’ve liked. She ended up having to miss large chunks of the season with a hip injury. Her resilience and outlook during this extreme adversity gives insight into her personality and character. Cat very well could have approached this obstacle with negativity and anguish but she was determined not to let this hinder her third and final season at the high school. She gave huge props to Coach Catanzaro for helping her keep a positive attitude during this discouraging time. The phrase “big picture” became common dialogue between the two while Cat was rehabbing. Coach Catanzaro helped Cat realize that it was more important and beneficial for the team if she rehabbed as hard as she could so that she could be at full strength and ready to go when the playoffs started. Cat faithfully followed her rehab schedule and, fortunately for the Scouts, was back at 100% when the playoffs rolled around. All of her patience and positivity paid off as she helped the Scouts capture their second state title in as many years.
Even more impressive however is her incredible work ethic. A typical day for Cat during the field hockey season consists of early morning training, lifting, school, LFHS field hockey practice or game, and practice for her Windy City club team. Mrs. Catanzaro, the high school’s varsity field hockey coach, delved deeper into this, saying, “Cat is by far one of the hardest working athletes I know, no matter what the task at hand is, Cat attacks it at full speed.” Her competitive nature and take-no-prisoners attitude has been a driving force in the success she has had in her field hockey career. Everyone has heard the cliche quote, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” but Cat is a living embodiment of this idea. She understands what it takes to be truly great at something and that is a trait that few other students at the high school obtain.
Cat’s most impressive trait, however, is quite possibly her leadership abilities. It is an arduous task to uphold the high school’s field hockey legacy in the midst of a coaching change, and a hip injury. Cat Nicholson did just that. In a year where the team was comprised of only eight seniors, Cat took the reins and helped establish the precedent for this years field hockey team. She stationed expectations and goals for the team to work towards in order to have the most successful season possible. Cat attributed her success in being a captain to the valuable experience she had gained in the previous two years on the team. Cat has experienced heartbreak and triumph and she fully recognizes the stark difference between the two. She still recalls the bitter taste in her mouth from the 2015 team’s 3-1 loss to Glenbard West in the semifinals of the state tournament. She vividly remembers tears streaming down the seniors faces as they walked off of the field for the last time in their high school careers. She has also experienced the highest off highs, winning the state championship last year against rival New Trier. Being able to contrast the two different ends of the spectrum has been critical in Cat’s effective captaining this past year.
Cat not only excels in field hockey; she also has been a key player on the girls varsity lacrosse team in the past two years. She is a starting defender and has played an integral role in the Scouts success this season. As of today, the Lacrosse Scouts are ranked #17 in the state of Illinois and are also on the upswing as playoffs roll around. Cat’s tenacious defense has been one of the Scouts strong suits as she has been able to keep some of the state’s top notch defenses at bay.
Cat also has some pretty exciting plans for her future as she will be attending the University of Iowa next year to continue her field hockey career. Iowa embodied everything that she was looking for in a school. Not only is it a top notch field hockey program, but it also has an exuberant student body that enjoys getting behind the school’s sports teams. She is planning on following a pre-med track while at the school.
All in all, it is clear that Nicholson has had quite the impact on the school’s athletics. Her work ethic and maturity are unmatched and evidently visible in the success she has had in her endeavors thus far. Catherine Nicholson exemplifies exactly what it takes to be a successful athlete at the high school level. Her combination of diligence and aptitude has frustrated North Shore teams for three straight years now and that is likely to continue as she takes the next step in her career into the Big Ten.