INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Notre Dame soccer player Elizabeth Tucker was honored Sunday night as the NCAA Woman of the Year.
Tucker, from Jacksonville, Florida, had 19 goals and 14 assists in 92 games in four seasons for the Fightling Irish. She helped the team win the 2010 national title.
Now in its 24th year, the Woman of the Year Award recognizes female student-athletes for outstanding academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership. Tucker is the first women’s soccer student-athlete to be named NCAA Woman of the Year since the program began in 1991.
"I want to thank my family and in particular at an event like this, thank all the women who have been in my life,” Tucker said. “My grandmothers have always been behind me, and my mother has been there, my aunt is here tonight. Nothing that I did the past four years I came up with my own; I learned it by watching all the wonderful women in my life. While I in no way, shape or form feel deserving of this award, I'm more than happy to accept it on their behalf."
Tucker earned a degree in business administration from Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business in May with a 4.0 grade-point average. She received the 2014 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award and a 2014 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, is one of five finalists for the 2014 Wooden Citizenship Cup and a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship.
Like her parents and her sister before her, Tucker pursued her degree at Notre Dame. When she considered where to attend college, she looked for the most challenging school academically that also had a good women’s soccer team, and she found her fit at Notre Dame, where she won a national championship her freshman year.
“As a freshman, I don’t think I appreciated how significant it was at the time,” Tucker said. “We had a phenomenal team. We had some bumps during the season, but just had the dream season. I didn’t realize until the next year how special it was.”
A graduate from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, Tucker was a valedictory finalist for the Notre Dame Class of 2014. A multiple-time Academic All-American, Tucker received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and Atlantic Coast Conference Postgraduate Scholarship. Tucker also was a recipient of the 2013 Eugene D. Fanning Scholarship Award, recognizing exceptional achievement in business communication, and the 2012 Notre Dame Accounting Excellence Award, recognizing the top 20 accounting majors. She was selected for the 2014 Tara K. Deutsch Award, given to a Notre Dame accountancy senior who displays exemplary social consciousness and devotion to those less fortunate, and the 2014 Top Hamilton Award for accountancy for having the highest cumulative GPA.
“For me, academics were always equally as important as athletics,” Tucker said. “I just tried to approach school that way.”
Tucker has long been motivated by service to her community, both on campus and in South Bend. She credits her family and having four siblings growing up in a household where everyone had to pitch in. She served for two years as an executive board member on Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, but her most memorable experience was the women’s soccer team’s friendship with and support of a pediatric cancer patient at South Bend Memorial Hospital. Tucker also volunteered at a local public library to assist low-income and elderly taxpayers with their tax returns, and spent three years in the Rosenthal Leadership Academy, which offers workshops for student-athletes to impart skills, insights and strategies necessary to create and sustain effective leadership.
“I think sometimes, especially in college sports, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your world, and every community service thing I did brought me back down to earth and made me realize how much I had to be grateful for,” Tucker said.
After arriving at Notre Dame her freshman year, Tucker contributed immediately to the women’s soccer team, starting in 22 of 25 games. She was a team captain her junior year, and won the 2014 Byron V. Kanaley Award, for leadership in Notre Dame athletics, and the 2014 Francis Patrick O’Connor Award, for embracing the spirit of Notre Dame athletics. In 2012, Tucker also competed as a member of the United States U-23 women’s national team player pool.
“Competing in college sports completely changed my college experience from what it would have been otherwise,” Tucker said. “To play college soccer and be a student-athlete at Notre Dame was the gift of a lifetime. It made me a stronger, more mature and more aware person going into the real world and for that, I will always be grateful.”
The NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee chose the nine finalists from the top 30 national honorees. From the nine finalists, the Committee on Women’s Athletics, comprised of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences, selected Tucker as this year’s NCAA Woman of the Year. The Oct. 19 event in Indianapolis celebrated the top 30 honorees, who had been identified from a pool of 140 conference nominees.
To be eligible for the award, a female student-athlete must have completed eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2014 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2014 term and achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5.