For four years, Wisconsin attacking midfielder Nick Van Sicklen has been collecting award after award.
In 2002, Van Sicklen, then a sophomore, totaled 19 points on his way to first-team All-Big Ten, NSCAA/Adidas second-team All-Great Lakes Region, and Badger offensive MVP honors.
Last year, the homegrown Madison product picked up right where he left off, posting six goals and three assists for 15 points. Van Sicklen once again garnered the team’s offensive MVP award, and earned a spot on the second-team All-Big Ten squad. During those two years, however, the Badgers have won just four Big Ten matches, and Van Sicklen is prepared to trade his individual awards for team success.
“I can be not a team MVP, not first-team All-Big Ten and win a national championship, and that would be all I’d really want,” Van Sicklen said.
This year, the former Madison West star is truly looking to lead Wisconsin to bigger and better things as a team captain.
“My main impact on the team is through leadership, and I guess more than anything, leading by example,” Van Sicklen said.
Badger head coach Jeff Rohrman says that Van Sicklen’s leadership is something that has developed over time.
“He’s taken this senior year and really done a lot of good things in terms of his leadership and in all of those areas,” Rohrman said. “So I have to give him a lot of credit because I think coming in, he never would have seen himself as a guy who would have been a leader and a captain. He’s done some great things in the last year. He leads by example in a lot of ways, and he brings a ton to the team.”
After a win over Ohio State in last season’s Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin will be looking to build on that success, and Van Sicklen believes they are ready to do more than just compete in the conference.
“Winning the Big Ten title [is my goal for the team],” Van Sicklen said, “whether it’s the conference championship or the tournament. I think we showed that we’re capable of doing it, making it to the semifinals (in last year’s conference tournament). I think definitely winning those would be huge.”
Sadly for Badger soccer fans and the entire program, this season is Van Sicklen’s last in cardinal and white. For Rohrman, it will be hard to replace one of the Big Ten’s most gifted players.
“Nick has been an absolute pleasure to have in the program,” Rohrman said. “I think athletically, for sure there are some great qualities there that we’re going to miss when he’s gone.”
Whether the Wisconsin tri-captain’s soccer career continues next season is out of his hands.
“I’m going to take what comes,” Van Sicklen said. “If the offers are there, I think I’m going to have to definitely take a long, hard look at playing professionally. But I also have other interests in law school and grad school.”
Rohrman believes that Van Sicklen’s athleticism may be his ticket to the next level.
“I think he’s got an opportunity to maybe get into a camp and kind of make his way,” Rohrman said. “In terms of some of the technical areas, he’s going to have to improve. His passing has gotten better. I think he still could finish a little better with some things from distance. But just athletically, he’s gifted to the point that a lot of people are going to be looking [for] that, [someone] who can get up and down and get behind people.”
So who does the Wisconsin soccer star idolize?
“I guess lately I like how (French striker) Thierry Henry plays,” Van Sicklen said. “But I’m nowhere near his speed or anything.”
And while Van Sicklen may not possess the world-class soccer speed of Henry, Rohrman likens his pupil to a member of the United States National team.
“He’s got a lot of the stuff that maybe a Frankie Hejduk has. He can play wide and get up and down,” Rohrman said. “I think Frankie’s been converted into a back, whereas he was always a midfielder. Nick, I don’t see him as an outside back. I see him maybe more as a midfielder because he can offer so much going forward. But he’s got a lot of the same athletic traits as a guy like Frankie Hejduk would have, in terms of a good engine, good quickness, good speed, and all of that.”
For now, however, Van Sicklen’s putting the future on hold and concentrating on the present — namely helping to carry the scoring load and doing whatever he can to help the team win.
“I know that there’s pressure on me to produce,” Van Sicklen said. “And I think that it’s important to pick up the players, pick up our team when we need to and just play to my potential.”