The 21-year-old Hazelbrook native moved to Wolfville, N.S., on Saturday and Tuesday she begins training camp with the Acadia Axewomen’s soccer team.
“Right now, every athlete’s push is to be in the starting 11,” McInnis said.
“It’s difficult to say right now who is where in terms of goalkeepers.
“It’s up to myself to push as hard as I can, on and off the field, to make sure I’m in that starting 11.”
McInnis played club ball in Stratford, Sherwood, Eliot River and Winsloe, was the starting keeper for Team P.E.I. at the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que., and graduated from Charlottetown Rural High School in 2014. She has attended the regional and national training centres and joined Holland College for the 2014-15 season.
During her three years as a Hurricane, McInnis was named to the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) second all-star team once and was the goalkeeper of the year the past two seasons while making the first all-star squad.
“Holland was awesome,” McInnis said.
After losing in the ACAA final the first two years, the Hurricanes won the title in 2016.
“She arrived the first day of camp and I think instantly brought up the level of competition, just with her demeanour and the way she approaches training every day,” Hurricanes head coach Kris McKinnon said. “She’s just a true competitor. She goes to the field every day to win, whether it is training or a game.”
McInnis describes herself as “bold, brave and aggressive” while being a vocal leader for her squad.
“I will put my body on the line for the game and I will always go to bat for my teammates.”
McInnis, who studied sport and leisure at Holland College, will do two more years at Acadia studying kinesiology in order to get her degree. She plans to pursue a career in physiotherapy.
Making the transition from the ACAA to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) can be challenging, as players overall are quicker and stronger.
McInnis has played with and against AUS players growing up and with a couple of years in the ACAA under her belt, she feels she is up to the challenge.
“I want to compete. I want to play,” she said. “I want to prove to myself and everyone back home that little P.E.I. does deserve to be in the big leagues.”
She will be walking into an Acadia dressing room with many players who were on last year’s squad, which finished fifth at the U Sports national championship in Wolfville.
“It makes you want to be better as a player, knowing that you’re walking into a team with such talent,” she said. “Acadia has a very strong group of girls and a very smart, experienced coaching staff, which I’m very excited for.”
Axewomen’s head coach Amit Batra said they were in touch with McInnis in high school. McInnis’ communication and aggressive approach were two of the traits that attracted Batra.
“She can be a really good shot stopper. I’ve seen in her make some really great saves,” he said.
The Axewomen usually carry three keepers during the season.
Emma Connell, the Axewomen’s starter the past three years, has graduated. Sophomore Sarah Charnock was last year’s back-up while Spencer Skinner was a freshman.
“There’s a lot of competition there and it will come down to who can really stand out,” Batra said. “We’re looking for the consistency first off. Are they able to do the things that they need to do to keep the ball out of the net?”
Batra, who coached in the ACAA with Mount Saint Vincent in 2009 and 2010, said the players will get a chance to show what they can do in exhibition games this weekend with Queen’s, UQTR and Algonquin College in Kingston, Ont.
McKinnon said he is pleased for McInnis.
“We’d love to keep her, but it's the right (decision) academically for her,” he said. “It’s our job now to go and try and find another Nicole to make an impact on our team.”
The Hurricanes recruited Cassidy Durston of Lower Sackville, N.S., for the upcoming season. They start training camp on Monday, Aug. 28.
Need to know
Getting to know Nicole McInnis
Who – A 21-year-old Hazelbrook native.
Sport – McInnis has played keeper for the Holland College soccer team for the past three years. After being recruited by the Acadia Axewomen, she will start training camp this week with the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) squad.
Getting started – McInnis wasn’t always a keeper. It changed when she was playing under-12. “My team didn't have a goalkeeper, so it was my turn to slap on the gloves,” McInnis explained, noting she earned a 4-0 shutout in her debut. “Since then, I decided to stick it out.”
Did you know? McInnis was a three-time academic all-Canadian at Holland College.
Hurricanes head coach Kris McKinnon said: “Her ability to organize the players in front of her and ability to see everything is a huge asset. We talk to younger kids all the time about their ability to communicate and give information to teammates and I think Nicole, probably, is one of the best at it.”