Women’s lacrosse star Ria Tascoe Nickens ’92 will leave sunny California for the frozen confines of Ithaca to be inducted into the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame this Friday. The four-time Brine Northeast Regional All-American and three-time All-Ivy second team honoree (1990-92) was also tri-captain her junior and senior years.
“In preparing for this weekend, I was looking at pictures and thinking back,” she said. “Lacrosse made the time [at Cornell] what it was.”
Nickens remembers her senior season as the high point of her athletic career. The team had come a long way since an abysmal 1-12 season her freshman year. In 1992, former head coach Cheryl Wolf’s squad tied the school record for wins in a season with an 11-5 record, going on to win the ECAC championships. The team bonded over the years, and Nickens is still best friends with girls from the team.
“It was a great culmination for us and summed up the experience at Cornell,” she said.
Nickens was surprised to learn of her status as an honoree when she received a FedEx from Cornell in June.
“I read it and read it and read it three times and asked my husband to come read it,” she said. “It was one of those experiences … you want someone to pinch you and make sure it’s real.”
Nickens and her husband of eight years, Jonathan, have known each other their entire lives. As a student at Rutgers, he even cheered her on at lacrosse games on the road.
“He’d go to games whenever we went to Princeton and Rutgers, [places that] he could get to,” she said.
Nickens, however, didn’t want to put lacrosse behind her after graduation. Soon after moving out west, she coached the UC Berkeley women’s lacrosse club team for a couple of years in the late 1990s, easing the team’s transition into a fully-fledged varsity program. In 2001, she also served as an assistant coach for the team at San Francisco University High School.
But with full-time work and motherhood placing increasing constraints on her time, Nickens has had to put lacrosse on the back burner. Her current athletic outlets include competing in triathlons and keeping track of her three-year-old son and one-month-old daughter.
Though she did not get the chance to play alongside Nickens, women’s lacrosse head coach Jenny Graap ’86 recognizes the legacy she left behind.
“She brought incredible speed and stickwork [to the team]. Most notably her fitness level was outstanding. She could outrun her opponents,” Graap said. “In the sport of lacrosse, speed is so instrumental, and she’s just naturally gifted.”
Nickens racked up the statistics to prove it during her collegiate career. She graduated ranked fourth on the Red’s all-time career points scored list with 123 points on 105 goals. She was also third on the list for career goals scored. Nickens currently ranks 10th in points scored and seventh in goals scored after 13 years’ worth of talented lacrosse players have passed through East Hill. Nickens still keeps track of the program which meant so much to her as a student.
“Jenny Graap does such a good job with keeping in contact with the alumni,” she said.
Nickens was able to see the Red play when they came to Stanford in 2002. Former teammates who live on the East Coast and are able to attend more games also keep Nickens updated on the Red’s progress.
“You can kind of live vicariously through [the current team] … we still feel like we’re part of the team because Jenny does such a good job keeping us connected,” she said.
Along with her husband, father and friends, Nickens will have three-year-old Ryan present to cheer her on at the formal induction ceremonies this Friday.
“I’m really excited to have his first official college visit be to Cornell,” she said.