Evelyn Nicinski ’ 15 was a bit blue when an ACL injury ended her Bucknell soccer career during an away game with Stetson
University last September — just when she thought she could build
on an outstanding junior season. But the self-described “spontaneous
and adventurous person” decided to make the proverbial lemons
out of lemonade.
“As devastating as [the injury was], oddly enough I think it’s one
of the reasons I’m playing professionally now,” says Nicinski, via
email from Berlin, where she is a defensive midfielder for FC Lübars
in Frauen-Bundesliga, the German women’s pro league. “Having
the ability to play stripped away from me made me realize just
how much I truly love the sport and how I didn’t want to give it up
Though she grew up in the New York City suburbs, Nicinski has
dual citizenship from Poland, because her parents are natives of
that nation. Since 2009, she has played for age-group Polish national
teams. She was more recently a defender for the Polish national
team, which lost in the regional qualifying round for the 2015
This fall, the team starts qualifiers for the 2017 Euro Championship,
so she will split time between the Polish national team and her
professional club in Germany.
When she was little, Nicinski says, her heroes were the 1999 U.S.
women’s World Cup champions.
“This group of women was able to not only inspire little girls
— including me — but also an entire nation, and I think that’s pretty
incredible,” she says. “Because of them, I have always worked my
hardest to be the best I can be, both on and off the field.” She found
this summer’s World Cup winners to be equally motivating.
“It was their goal to inspire a nation, just like the 1999 team,”
Nicinski says. “They achieved that, as evidenced by how many people
watched this World Cup and rooted for Team USA through the final.”
Nicinski, who graduated cum laude with a major in global
management, says she came to Bucknell because it combined
good athletics and academics. After attending a summer camp on
campus, she decided it was the place for her, and she played mostly
offensive midfield, leading the team in goals and points and making
third-team all-Mid-Atlantic her junior year in 2013.
Nicinski says her real inspirations, though, have been her parents,
who emigrated from Poland in the 1980s, just before she was born.
“As cliché as it may be, I can easily say they are my greatest role
models,” she says. “They gave up their lives in Poland to move to the
States to try to create a better life with greater opportunities for my
brother and me. To sacrifice everything they had to make sure I lived
— Robert Strauss
Gulati has a personal stake in keeping soccer safe.
His son, Emilio, is a 17-year-old fanatical player, as
is daughter Sofia, 10. (His wife, Marcela, grew up in
Mexico — he met her when he was headed to Acapulco
for the 1995 Mexican League draft.) He aspires to be a
model sports dad.
“I am pretty passive, so I will go to games and will
enjoy or suffer, whether they are doing well or not,” says
Gulati. “I am not someone who is screaming at games
or getting too emotional about it.
“There is enough stress from the rest of my soccer
activities, so I just go and watch my kids play,” he says.
He also is realistic about their abilities: “They are better
than their genes allow them to be. They love playing,
and I loved playing, but I was not a great soccer player.
They are good, but they are not going to be professional
Gulati says if he were told he had to pick between
teaching and soccer, he couldn’t do it. Luckily, he does
not have to choose. He gave Bucknell’s Commencement
address in 2013, and his advice for students then is
what he would tell anyone, from world leaders to his
“If you find over the next five, 10, 20 years that
Fridays are joyous because the work week is over, and
that’s the case every week, it might not be the right job,
regardless of the paycheck that comes every other week
or the bonus that comes at the end of the year,” Gulati
told the 2013 graduates. “For me, Mondays are joyous.
Septembers are not when my kids go off to school; it’s
when I return to school. Fridays aren’t the end of a
workweek; they are the end of a joyous period.”
Gulati views the American soccer world he oversees
with a countless array of Mondays on the horizon.
There will be someone, he hopes, maybe many someones
who can do for soccer what Michael Jordan did for
basketball — elevate the game and bring it prestige.
“It will not be tomorrow. I know that,” he says. “But
I am determined that 10, 20 years from now, we will
Robert Strauss is a freelance writer who writes regularly for
The New York Times. He is the author of Daddy’s Little
Goalie, a funny, sentimental memoir about being the dad of
Sunil Gulati ’81 spoke on campus Oct. 15 for the Walling
Lecture Series. Go to the Bucknell Magazine app to hear
RECENT GRADUATE PURSUES
PRO SOCCER IN EUROPE
Nicinski (left) playing for
the Polish national team.