Sept. 25, 2014 NOTRE DAME, Ind. – During her four-year career with the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team, Elizabeth Tucker collected 14 assists, a remarkable accomplishment considering the Jacksonville, Fla., native never truly had an established position, playing forward, midfielder and defender at various times for the Fighting Irish.
In many ways, Tucker’s success on the soccer pitch — her versatility, her willingness to help others in any number of areas and her desire to put the success of many before personal gain — proved to be a metaphor for her career as a Notre Dame student-athlete and now as a college graduate. It’s also why Tucker now finds herself in a place no other person has visited in the 127-year history of Fighting Irish athletics.
Tucker is one of nine finalists (three from Division I) for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year award, making her the first Notre Dame student-athlete to be so honored. Along with Tucker, the other NCAA Woman of the Year finalists are:
- Alexa Baltes (Illinois Wesleyan University, basketball)
- Marisa Bast (Northwestern University, softball)
- Krista Bellefeuille (University of Northwestern-St. Paul, volleyball)
- Ellen Chambers (Lynn University, golf)
- Alyssa Hasslen (University of Arizona, indoor/outdoor track & field)
- Megan Light (Emory University, softball)
- Jackie Sileo (Long Island University-Post, lacrosse)
- Bailey Vrazel (Texas Woman’s University, softball)
Earlier this month, Tucker became the second Fighting Irish student-athlete to be an NCAA Woman of the Year semifinalist (top 30 honoree), joining another former women’s soccer player, goalkeeper Jen Renola (’97), who earned that distinction in 1997 when the NCAA Woman of the Year award recognized 52 semifinalists (one per state plus representatives from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico).
The NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female student-athletes who participated in NCAA-sanctioned sports and have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership.
Tucker’s road to becoming an NCAA Woman of the Year finalist began in July, when Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) nominated Tucker and another women’s soccer player, Virginia Tech’s Jazmine Reeves, for the award, with Tucker, a four-year monogram recipient and two-time team captain, garnering semifinalist (honoree) accolades on Sept. 2.
From the list of 30 honorees, the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee determined the nine award finalists (three from each NCAA division). The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics will meet to vote for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year, who will be honored along with the 29 other award semifinalists (honorees), during a ceremony Oct. 19 in Indianapolis.
“I am surprised, once again, to move farther in the selection process,” Tucker said. “I hope this finalist designation brings more positive attention to Notre Dame, particularly the many incredible people there who work every day to make it the great place I was blessed to attend the past four years. I don’t think I can ever fully express how grateful I am to have gone there and to have gotten to know and learn from so many good people while I was there.”
Tucker helped the Fighting Irish to four consecutive NCAA Championship berths during her career (2010-13), including the 2010 national title and a spot in the 2012 NCAA quarterfinals. She appeared in all 92 of Notre Dame’s matches in that four-year span, starting 87 times while finishing with 19 goals and 14 assists.
Tucker qualified as the 2014 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and recipient of a 2014 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, as well as one of five finalists for the 2014 Wooden Citizenship Cup and a candidate for both a Rhodes Scholarship and University valedictorian honors. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree from Notre Dame’s top-ranked Mendoza College of Business in May 2014 with a 4.00 grade-point average. An accounting major and theology minor, she received Dean’s List honors all eight semesters she attended the University. She also was a first-team Capital One Academic All-America selection in 2012 and 2013, making her only the 15th Notre Dame student-athlete in school history to earn first-team Academic All-America honors twice (and just the fourth women’s soccer player to do so).
During her academic career, Tucker received numerous accolades from the Mendoza College of Business, including the 2013 Eugene D. Fanning Scholarship Award, recognizing exceptional achievement in business communication, and the 2012 Notre Dame Accounting Excellence Award, recognizing Mendoza’s top 20 accounting majors. She also earned the 2014 Tara K. Deutsch Award, given to a Notre Dame accountancy senior who displays exemplary social consciousness and devotion to those less fortunate, as well as the 2014 Top Hamilton Award for accountancy for having the highest cumulative GPA.
Randy Waldrum currently is more than 2,600 miles away in the tiny Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago, coaching that country’s Women’s National Team through the final stages of qualification for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Yet, when he learned of Tucker’s selection as an NCAA Woman of the Year finalist, Tucker’s former college coach couldn’t hide the pride he still has for his player, nearly a full year after she wore the Fighting Irish uniform for the final time.
“I was so excited to hear the news of Liz’s advancement as a finalist for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year award,” said Waldrum (who recently completed his first season as head coach of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash). “This is the first time in Notre Dame’s illustrious history that any female athlete has gotten this far in the award’s history. I can’t think of a better candidate who epitomizes all that a student-athlete should be, and then more. In addition to the expectations that we have for our student-athletes, Liz continually exceeded those by committing so much more of her time to so many social causes out there. She is truly an outstanding woman, let alone an exceptional student-athlete, and I’m hopeful she will become Notre Dame’s first ever NCAA Woman of the Year — no one would deserve it more.”
In May, Tucker became the first student-athlete in Notre Dame history to sweep all four of the University’s major athletics honors in the same year — the Byron V. Kanaley Award (senior monogram athlete most exemplary as a student and leader), Francis Patrick O’Connor Award (student-athlete who embodies the true spirit of Notre Dame through contributions to the team), the Community Champion Award (recognizing contributions by student-athletes to the University community and community at large) and the Top Gun Award (highest senior student-athlete GPA).
On campus, Tucker was highly invested in helping younger Notre Dame students reach their goals through the Notre Dame Peer Advisor Program, in which she met with 50 freshmen to discuss their academic progress and social concerns. What’s more, within Notre Dame’s top-ranked Mendoza College of Business, Tucker served two years as a teaching assistant in two courses — managerial economics and information technology management.
Tucker also was an active member of two highly-regarded Notre Dame student-athlete groups — the Rosenthal Leadership Academy and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).
As one of more than 100 student-athletes representing 26 Fighting Irish athletic teams, Tucker participated in the Rosenthal Leadership Academy for two years (2011-12 and 2013-14). The Rosenthal Leadership Academy is one of the nation’s premier leadership development programs in collegiate athletics, developing, challenging and supporting student-athletes and coaches in their continual quest to become world-class leaders in athletics, academics and life. The Rosenthal Leadership Academy provides comprehensive and cutting-edge leadership-development programming through interactive workshops, 360-degree feedback, one-on-one coaching, peer mentoring and educational resources.
Tucker also served two years on the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) board. Along with fellow women’s soccer captain Katie Naughton, Tucker was selected to participate in the 58-member group. The SAAC meets once a month for about two hours to discuss critical issues that affect the experiences of student-athletes. The topics include NCAA legislation, career opportunities, networking, hazing and healthy nutrition. The group initiates new programming ideas, participates in community service projects and acts as the student-athlete group liaison to athletic administration.
Off the pitch, Tucker donated an incredible amount of time to numerous local, regional and even national community service projects, in addition to being an active contributor to several campus groups, both inside and outside the Notre Dame athletics department.
Tucker was closely involved in the Irish Fight For Life program, which pairs teams and student-athletes with a patient in the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital, providing the patients and their families with support as they are undergoing treatment for various types of cancers.
Tucker also participated in the Adopt-a-Family, Ronald McDonald House, Pediatric Christmas Party and Perley Elementary Tutor programs. What’s more, she was instrumental in leading meet-and-greet events at local area middle schools, as well as soccer clinics throughout the South Bend area, notably with Michiana Special Olympians.
In addition, Tucker was part of the Notre Dame Tax Assistance Program, which annually goes out into South Bend and surrounding communities to help low-income and disabled citizens with preparation of tax returns.
In her personal statement submitted as part of the NCAA Woman of the Year award nomination process, Tucker talked about the value of being a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame.
“Although I will not have the responsibilities of a Division I student-athlete next year, I hope to take with me the lessons I’ve learned from these past four years,” she wrote. “Namely, that the path opened up to me by my particular talents not only will allow me to achieve my greatest personal success, but also will provide me with the most fruitful opportunities for helping those around me and the community in which I live.”
Tucker now works as a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Chicago, with an eye on pursuing graduate studies in the future.
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— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director