Columbus State senior Nicole Corcione knows the number of days left in her soccer career is dwindling.
When she steps foot on the pitch at the Walden Soccer Complex tonight (7:30 vs. North Alabama) to help the Lady Cougars begin the 2016 season, the start of her final season begins.
The CSU season will end sometime in November. Corcione is hoping she can go out a national champion.
“In the end, it’s about the team and being successful in this last year,” Corcione said. “My ultimate goal is to win the conference and in the end to win the national championship.
“If all that happens, it’s great, but ultimately the goal is to win. However that happens is good with me.”
Corcione helped lead the Lady Cougars last year to the best season in the program’s history. CSU went 22-3-1 and came agonizingly close to winning a first national title, losing 2-0 to Grand Valley State.
It is a painful memory that drove the senior during the offseason.
“Pretty much also, like every day, a lot,” Corcione said when asked how often she thinks about the loss to Grand Valley State. “During practice sometimes, I will just think about how we were so close to winning. Sometimes I’ll just randomly think about it. It just gives me motivation to want to do better.
“It kind of always wanders into my head. We accomplished a good thing last year, but we were just one win away from winning it all. That’s just my motivation. Like every practice this year is to do better.”
Corcione was named the Peach Belt Conference and the Southeast Region Player of the Year last season. She was second in the PBC with 15 goals and 13 assists, leading the conference with 43 points.
The Candler, N.C., native heads into her final season near the top in most every offensive mark in the CSU record book.
She is fourth in goals with 35, 20 behind leader Stephanie Parrish but just 13 behind Gina Goforth for second-place. She is tied for second in assists with 24, just five behyind Kellie Myles. And Corcione is fourth in points with 94, 36 behind Parrish, the leader.
CSU coach Jay Entlich acknowledges how good Corcione has been in the past, but he said he challenged her to be even better this season.
“Nicole has been just one of the hardest workers that you’ll ever find. Not only on the field but off the field. She’s like a 3.96 student athlete, a nursing student. She puts in a lot of extra work that goes unnoticed,” Entlich said. “She stays after practice quite a bit, she comes early to practice. I think that that is great for the culture of this program and it shows, now you start to see some of these other freshmen, they’re going to stay after practice and work.”
“… She didn’t come here blessed with this incredible gift of talent, she’s just an extremely hardworking human being and she’s increased her technical ability over the years. She’s increased her tactical ability over the years. But I think from a hardworking standpoint there’s no way that anyone else in that attacking line has been better from a work rate standpoint.”
When her college career comes to an end later this year, Corcione will begin looking to start her nursing career.
“I’m interested in the ER or pediatrics. That’s kind of what I’m leaning toward right now,” Corcione said. “I am just kind of a fast-paced person. I like up tempo things. I think the ER would be cool for that, but I’m also, on the flip side, really good with kids. I’m really good with ... coaching and family ... just everything. I get along really well with kids. I think either one of those I could do really well at.”
While her career will be in nursing, Corcione admits she could never give up soccer completely.
“I’ll definitely still play for fun in an adult league and stuff — just to stay in shape,” she said. “I could never stop playing totally. That would be crazy.”
Sept. 2-North Alabama, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 4-Wingate, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 9-at Lynn, 6 p.m.
Sept. 11-at Barry, 11 a.m.
Sept. 14-at Lee, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17-USC Aiken, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21-at North Georgia, 6 p.m.
Sept. 24-at UNC Pembroke, 1 p.m.
Sept. 28-at West Florida, 5 p.m.
Oct. 1-Lander, 3 p.m.
Oct. 5-Clayton State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 8-Georgia Southwestern, 1 p.m.
Oct. 12- at Young Harris, 5 p.m.
Oct. 15-Francis Marion, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19-at Montevallo, 6 p.m.
Oct. 22-at Flagler, 1 p.m.
Oct. 26-at Armstrong State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 29-Georgia College, 1 p.m.