In a close game against conference opponent Northeastern in early October, Towson women’s soccer forward Nia Christopher experienced something not often seen in soccer.
At times throughout the scoreless game, Christopher was marked by two, and sometimes three, Northeastern defenders. The Huskies’ plan was to stop the No. 2 scorer in the Colonial Athletic Conference from touching the ball.
The strategy worked; Northeastern pulled off an upset win in overtime, but Christopher still managed to lead the Tigers (8-6-3 overall, 3-4-1 CAA) with five shots, two on goal.
“It’s frustrating at times but knowing they are sending two or three players on me, that leaves two of our players open,” said Christopher, a graduate of The John Carroll School (Bel Air, Md.). “If I am able to get the ball to them, they could create something even bigger.”
Towson fourth-year coach Katherine Vettori sees the double- and triple-teaming as a sign of respect.
“We have some other weapons,” Vettori said. “But she’s still hard to stop, even triple-teamed.”
Other teams have not been as successful in shutting down the star sophomore, who is among the top goal-scorers in the nation with 13 goals through 17 games. Most recently, Christopher scored the game-winning goal against Drexel Oct. 24.
Christopher’s other stats are just as eye-popping. She leads the team with 79 shots and 41 shots on goal, good for a .519 shots-on-goal percentage. She is first in the CAA in shots per game (4.65) and shots on goal (2.41).
Before arriving at Towson, Christopher was a dominant player for John Carroll, where she was a three-time All-IAAM A Conference player and two-time indoor all-conference performer.
Originally from Devonshire, Bermuda, Christopher moved from the island nation when she was 15. As a forward for the Bermuda National Team, Christopher has played in World Cup qualifying matches and CONCACAF championship games.
Following Towson’s season next month, Christopher will play in national team games against Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. She is the first Towson player to play for her respective national team, Vettori said.
As a teen, she lived in Georgia for a time before coming to Maryland. During her college recruitment, Christopher wanted to make sure she stayed close to home. And the Tigers, who recently clinched their first winning season since 2007, needed some firepower.
“Since I was in high school in Maryland, I really started to feel at home, so I wanted to stay close,” said Christopher, whose soft-spoken demeanor off the field does not match the intensity with which she plays on it.
“And also what they’re trying to do in rebuilding the program, I wanted to be a part of that,” she added.
Christopher said she was eager to get a taste of the college game heading into the fall of 2020, but like most college soccer teams across the country, Towson’s season was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tigers played a truncated eight-game spring season (2-4-2). Christopher totaled a goal and an assist and led the team in shots. She was named third-team All-CAA as a freshman.
The delayed season may have been a blessing in disguise, her coach said.
“For Nia, in high school, everything just came naturally and easy for her and she hadn’t pushed her limits as far as fitness and strength,” Vettori said. “I think that was huge for her to get that extra six months to prepare for the spring season.”
“Normally because we’re a fall sport, they come in and it’s go-go-go,” Vettori said of the freshman class. “Nia and her class were able to get in the weight room and develop. And so they were ready to roll in the spring. But even from the spring until now, she hasn’t even scratched her potential.”
Other benefits came in the form of a shortened off-season last summer ahead of her sophomore season.
“We were still pretty fit, so that helped in being able to build on top of [the spring season],” Christopher said.
The extra work the sophomore has put in so far in her college career has started to pay off.
In early September, she was selected as the CAA Offensive Player of the Week. A day later, she was named the College Soccer News Women’s National Player of the Week for scoring four goals in two games, including a hat trick and golden goal against Mount Saint Mary’s.
In an Oct. 17 game against Charleston — Senior Day for the team’s four senior players — Christopher scored in the 90th minute to tie the game after trailing by a goal for nearly an hour.
Articles from news organizations in her native Bermuda are published regularly, reporting when she scores or wins another award.
The humble Christopher shrugged off her individual success, saying simply, “I’m just happy to be on the score sheet as often as I have.”
The Tigers close out the regular season against UNC Wilmington Oct. 31. They are fighting to be one of four teams that qualify for the CAA tournament, which begins Nov. 4.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics