Accounting For Greatness

Senior Elizabeth Tucker was a 2012 Capital One Academic All-America® First Team selection, the 14th Academic All-Americans® in program history

Senior Elizabeth Tucker was a 2012 Capital One Academic All-America® First Team selection, the 14th Academic All-Americans® in program history

Sep 4, 2013

By Pete LaFleur ('90)

For most successful athletes, their parents and coaches have the greatest impact on their lives. For those serving in such mentoring roles, one of their primary goals and everlasting hopes is that those under their care develop a sense of accountability for their actions.

Notre Dame senior women's soccer co-captain Elizabeth Tucker embodies that foundational concept of accountability. It is woven throughout the tapestry of her fast-paced life, and it encompasses other core values such as duty, preparation, faithfulness, agreeability, respect and an unwavering devotion to family, friends and teammates.

Even if she had never played a game for a varsity team at Notre Dame, Tucker's first three years of college still would be highly noteworthy. The 2012 first team Academic All-American has yet to receive any class grade below an A, maintaining her lofty 4.0 cumulative grade-point average while pursuing a degree in - yes, you guessed it - accounting.

The four-year starter played a pivotal role as a freshman during Notre Dame's march to winning the 2010 NCAA Championship and steadily has emerged as a consummate leader.

"Elizabeth's character is unmatched, that's why selected her as a team captain," says classmate Nicole Rodriguez. "She leads by example and doesn't expect anything of the team that she doesn't expect of herself. All of the girls confide in her and trust her wholeheartedly.

"Everyone agrees Elizabeth is one of the best people we've ever met. She genuinely cares about everyone on the team. You initially would think, because she's so incredibly hardworking and successful at everything, that she would have a bit of an attitude. But Elizabeth is so incredibly humble and never wants any acknowledgement or attention. That's one of the big reasons why we respect her so much."

Former Notre Dame teammate Lauren Fowlkes (2006-10) - who knows a little something about true student-athlete excellence, having collected both All-America and Academic All-America honors - passed along the ultimate compliment in regards to Tucker's career-long success on both the field and in the classroom, saying simply: "Elizabeth Tucker truly embodies the spirit of what Notre Dame is all about."

An ND Spark

Tucker's story naturally traces back to her parents, John and Julie, classmates at Notre Dame who both later attained their law degrees from Duke. As a 1979 graduate, the future Julie Tucker was part of one of the first female classes at Notre Dame, which became co-educational in the fall of 1972. Coincidentally, her daughter Elizabeth is one of the first Notre Dame student-athletes with the double distinction of having both a father and mother who are ND graduates.                                                            


            
 

 

The Tucker Family at Notre Dame's 2012 NCAA quarterfinal game at Florida State


            

            

            



John Tucker - who has spent nearly 20 years as a partner with the national law firm Foley & Lardner LLP - first met his future wife during their sophomore year, as one of Julie's brothers lived nearby John in Cavanaugh Hall (yes, back when it was a men's dorm). The couple did not start dating until late in their senior year and Julie was certain she was "never going to see this guy again," as John headed off to Duke and she entered the workforce in Chicago.

Some combination of fate and common interest (i.e. law school) ultimately kept John and Julie's romance going for eight years - "we are very deliberate people, wouldn't want to rush into anything," jokes the current Mrs. Tucker - and they finally were wed in 1986, settling in John's hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to pursue their respective law careers while starting a family.

Sporting Siblings

The Tucker's first two children, Kate and Elizabeth, went on to earn 10 varsity letters each at Bishop Kenny High School. Due to their love for basketball, neither played soccer at Bishop Kenny but each was active in club soccer. During their respective senior years, each of Tucker sisters received Florida's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, a prestigious honor covering all divisions and all sports for the entire state.

Kate Tucker - who preceded her sister to Notre Dame and now is a second-year medical student at Georgetown - was the trendsetter for a group of five siblings who have become entrenched in numerous sports. Athletics, particularly for Elizabeth, provided a much-needed outlet.

"I had a lot of energy and a temper, so competing in sports was a healthy way to channel that," jokes the second Tucker daughter. "Every season, it seemed like we played every sport you could do."

Young Elizabeth initially was active in basketball, soccer and some combination of baseball/t-ball/softball. Her club soccer travel team began taking priority in the fourth grade, but she kept playing basketball through high school while also dabbling at times in volleyball, swimming and golf (plus the token childhood piano lessons). A standout in cross country and track, Tucker anchored Bishop Kenny's 4x800-meter relay team that won four state championships.

"Our parents made us do summer swim team and I absolutely hated it, I was a terrible swimmer," says Tucker, delving into one of her few negative sports memories. "The more I hated it, the more determined my parents were that I would keep swimming. My mom insisted it would build character. Unlike my brothers, I also am terrible at golf, can't make contact with the ball to save my life.

"What I've learned from certain sports failures is to simply realize that I am not the be-all, end-all and have a limited skill set."

John Tucker provides an interesting theory about his second daughter's history with sports. "Elizabeth always was very coachable and wanting to understand how to improve," says the family patriarch. "She is very strong at sports that require speed and intensity, such as basketball, soccer and running, but not nearly so good in sports that are solely technique, such as golf and swimming.

"I wanted all my kids, especially the girls, to learn to compete and to experience the unique camaraderie that comes with playing a tough team sport. We found soccer and basketball to be the best choices for the girls growing up."

The Tucker girls gained a valuable experience playing in the inner-city Police Athletic League (PAL) basketball program. "The PAL was more competitive but also introduced our girls to a different socioeconomic and ethnic environment, which we thought valuable," says John Tucker.

The sisters are only the first and second acts in a set of five Tucker siblings who all love to participate in a wide variety of sports. Brother Fritz - the biggest Notre Dame fan in the clan - nearly followed his sisters, but at the last minute he decided to attend another prestigious university and currently is a sophomore at West Point (U.S. Military Academy, a.k.a Army).

While Fritz Tucker competed in basketball, golf and cross country during his high school days, middle brother Andrew (currently a high school junior) has his own three-sport endeavors of soccer, golf and track. The youngest, sixth-grader Patrick, already is the best golfer in the family, in addition to competing in basketball, soccer and cross country.

The true athletic spectacle for the Tucker children occurs when competing together, whether it be in a backyard football game or a hotly-contested basketball battle.

"I coached all the kids early on in basketball, so that is kind of the family game," explains John Tucker. "Family basketball games in the driveway still are a regular occurrence when the kids are home, although we parents are moving slower and the kids are faster. Elizabeth and Andrew always have taken the backyard/driveway games the most seriously."

A Fortuitous Visitor

The Tucker family welcomed a special visitor during the summer of 1998, as they invited a young volunteer teacher over for a home-cooked meal. The 22-year-old was participating in Notre Dame's relatively new Alliance For Catholic Education (ACE) program and was teaching at nearby Assumption grade school. As things turned out, that special guest was former Notre Dame midfielder Julie Maund, a member of the 1995 NCAA championship team and co-captain of the 1997 women's soccer squad.

At the time, the Tuckers were being encouraged to enlist fourth-grade Kate on a competitive travel soccer team. "The whole concept of travel soccer for a young kid sounded over the top, so we asked Julie Maund about it and she encouraged it in order to see how good our kids could be," says John Tucker.

"She said to not assume that our kids were going to become college scholarship players simply because they played for a travel team, but that it would give them a platform to compete on a high level."

Sixteen years later, things have come full circle as Elizabeth Tucker, similar to Maund, now is a Notre Dame soccer captain and a past member of an NCAA championship team.

"At the time of that conversation, it was the remotest thing in our mind that either of our daughters would ever be doing something like winning a national title or being a team captain for a school like Notre Dame," recalls Julie Tucker.

The Tucker family continuation at Notre Dame almost did not come to be, as Kate - who ultimately loved her college of choice - needed some extra encouragement from her parents. "We knew Notre Dame would promote the same core values, such as faith, family and service, that we believed in while raising our children," says Julie Tucker. "We also knew it would give them a broader sense of the country and the world, than if they had remained in-state."

Two years after Kate had agreed to attend Notre Dame, Elizabeth's transition to college life was aided by the presence of her older sister, a regular presence at Irish home soccer games during those first two seasons.

"Having Kate at Notre Dame was almost like having a mother there, she provided a lot of support and comfort," says the appreciative little sister. "She was so busy with her pre-med studies but always came out to support me. Even in high school, she'd be getting ready to compete in the high jump and would be cheering like crazy as I ran by.

"I absolutely love my sister and she is a great role model. Kate is the backbone for all the rest of us kids. Somehow she always is able to stay up to date on all our lives and let us know she's thinking about us. She has shown us all how to work hard but have fun at the same time, all while making people around you feel loved and important."

The Tucker sisters are part of a mutual admiration society, as Kate often was aided by Elizabeth in the writing realm. "Even though Elizabeth had her early-morning responsibilities, many times she would help me late at night with proofreading a paper," says Kate. "That went beyond just proofing for errors, but involved sitting down and helping me improve my writing. Elizabeth works for perfection. Always.

"Elizabeth finally is getting rewarded for all her hard work and dedication to sports, school, social and spiritual life. She is such a well-rounded individual who puts so much effort into every category of her life. It's all coming together for a wonderful senior-year experience."

Bookstore Basketball's Best

The Tucker sisters - who made quite a name for themselves starring for the Bishop Kenny basketball team a few years earlier - shared a special moment in late April of 2012, a few weeks in advance of Kate's graduation. Notre Dame's legendary Bookstore Basketball 5-on-5 tournament was nearing its end and Kate's team was set to play in the Sunday final of the women's division. With one of her teammates hobbled by a sprained ankle, the big sister dialed up her secret weapon.

Elizabeth had her own athletic commitment on that last Sunday of April, as the Irish were set to take on Iowa in their final spring exhibition. But the timing allowed for a two-sport showcase that would make Bo Jackson proud.

The younger Tucker sister agreed to fill in as the team's point guard, awaking early to spend a couple hours shooting baskets before playing in the noon soccer game and then the 6:00 p.m. Bookstore Basketball final. The Tucker sisters led their team to a narrow win in the title game, besting a team that included a player, coach and administrator from the Notre Dame women's basketball varsity program. Kate Tucker, a talented 5-foot-11 post player, was honored after the game with the coveted Mrs. Bookstore Award.                                                            


            

Elizabeth (far right) came to her sister Kate's (third from right) rescue for one of her 2012 Bookstore basketball games in 2012 when one of the players on Kate's team was injured


            

            

            



"I knew we had a really good chance of winning when Elizabeth was able to play," recalls the thankful older sister. "I know she plays college soccer, but don't be deceived, Elizabeth is a great basketball player. She terrorized the guards on the other team to get us a bunch of turnovers and quick layups, and she pushed the ball up the court on offense.

"I love when Elizabeth plays sports and we are on the same team, but hate it when she's on the other team. She makes everyone on her team look better - that's how you know a good player, in any sport."

The Tucker sisters had not played basketball together during their two years at Notre Dame, but they quickly snapped back into their old all-city form. "Everyone who knew us was a little surprised to see that we actually knew how to play basketball together," says Kate.

Lifechanging Decision

Nearly two decades earlier, shortly after the birth of their third child, the Tucker family underwent a major structural shift. With her daughters toiling away at a subpar summer camp and six-week-old Fritz recovering from open-heart surgery, Julie Tucker made the life-changing decision to walk away from a 10-year career as a commercial litigation attorney.

"I struggled with that decision for a long time," says the eventual mother of five. "I had enjoyed a pretty idyllic childhood with a stay-at-home mom, yet I had been blessed with an education that most don't have a chance to get.

"Plenty of other lawyers could take care of the mortgage case I was working on, but no one else could be mother to my children. I have never looked back on that decision, and I believe it actually was even more important to be home with my children the older they got."

The Tucker children will be forever indebted to that decision made by their mother, during that hectic summer of 1994.

"Many people discredit the value of just being a great mom," says Elizabeth. "My mom put aside any personal ambition and chose to do the most valuable thing she could - being there for her kids. I think everyone thought she was crazy ... and I think she thought she was crazy the first couple years, because we drove her nuts.

"I encounter so many students who are obsessed with securing a job after graduation. But my mom taught me a valuable lesson, by ultimately choosing what brings her the greatest happiness. She has devoted her life to making her children's lives as fulfilling as they can be. I only hope that one day I will be able to do the same for my children - with at least some of the incredible grace, intelligence and love my mom has shown.

"It likely will come as no surprise that, in the words of Elizabeth, the siblings always kid her and her mom because "they say we are the same person - we just could talk for hours." Although Julie Tucker admits to having a unique connection with her second daughter - they "both are pretty analytical, like to read, and like to think about the big questions in life" - she also notes that they have plenty of differences.

"Elizabeth, like all of her siblings, has introduced me to so many new experiences through the unique opportunities she has encountered in her wonderful life," says the beaming mom.

Love of Reading

Julie Tucker and her own seven siblings were raised by a nurturing mother who cultivated a deep appreciation for the value of books. It didn't take long for that love of reading to pass on to Elizabeth.

Two classic children's mystery book series - Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys - held a special place on Elizabeth Tucker's bookcase during her youth. Years later, she insisted that those childhood books, and many others, be preserved.

"I made my mom save my entire bookcase from when I was little, because I want my kids to read all the books I had," explains Tucker.

"I still appreciate reading those older books, for the same reason that my mom gave them to me in the first place. There is a certain set of values that those books promote and they teach the right lessons, while giving hope that things probably will work out in the end."

The love of books and the love of sports often created a clash in the Tucker household.

"My siblings always would get mad at me because if I got into a really good book, I wouldn't put it down - even if they wanted someone to play basketball with them," recalls Tucker.

Tucker eventually inherited her mother's love for non-fiction, most notably autobiographies. One of her favorites, My Grandfather's Son, conveys the compelling life story of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In recent years, Tucker's typical reading preference has morphed into a hybrid of genres that includes picking up a liking for her father's action novels, particularly the political thrillers authored by Vince Flynn.

"Lately, I've been alternating between Vince Flynn action books and Jane Austen novels - Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book and movie," laughs Tucker. "I'm definitely bouncing back and forth between two extremes, in terms of the styles of the books."

Tucker's voracious reading even impacted her middle school English teacher, Alicia Henderson. "She was a phenomenal teacher and later told me that she was reading a book a day when I was her student, so she always would have a book to give me," says Tucker.

With teachers and family members alike feeding Tucker's book habit, it's easy to identify one of the key factors that has produced such a well-rounded individual. Some of that academic "enabling" continues even to this day.

"I still stack books on Elizabeth's desk at home while she's at school," admits her book-pushing mother. "It's an assortment that I think she will like, and then she reads them on her breaks when she comes home."

That Burning Competitive Fire

While Tucker's academic prowess and love for books clearly trace back to her mother's influence, her competitive drive comes primarily from her father.

"My dad always has pushed me beyond my comfort zone, like urging me to try out for state and regional teams," says Tucker. "Nobody likes to go to a tryout and I probably would have quit soccer a long time ago if he had not assured me it would be good for me.

"I felt unworthy of being recruited to play at Notre Dame, but my dad always dreamed big for me, and not in a pushy way whatsoever. A big line he's always told us is: `To those who much is given, much is expected.' "

John Tucker also had one central rule for his children during their athletic endeavors: "Always play your hardest. Elizabeth not only learned that lesson early, but I think she came by it naturally," he says.

Adds older sister Kate: "Elizabeth had a lot of spitfire growing up. She knew exactly what she wanted and did whatever she needed to get it. She always was the tiniest on the field or court, by far, and everyone watching was shocked at how aggressive she was, how much trouble she gave the other team. She has never lost that aggression and drive. Everyone still is always impressed."

Straight-A Student

Even before she started posting 4.0 semesters at Notre Dame, Tucker had been a straight-A student throughout her pre-college days. Now, she stands a couple report cards away from completing the rarest of feats: graduating from Notre Dame with a 4.0 cumulative GPA while also being a four-year starter for a varsity team.

"People get really excited about the 4.0, but it was never a specific goal of mine," shrugs Tucker. "It kind of just happened as a result of trying to get the best grades I could. If i can get an A, why not?"

Her teammate Rodriguez voices a different sentiment concerning Tucker's 4.0 run.

"Let's be honest, nobody can get a 4.0 at Notre Dame without natural smarts, but the difference with Tucker is that she works harder," explains Rodriguez. "After every pregame meal, three hours before a game, Tucker goes off by herself and does homework. Most of us just go to the locker room, listen to music and get ready for the game.

"Elizabeth is different because but she knows that in order to keep being successful, she needs to sacrifice some fun. The team always teases her about studying all the time, but it's because we're all really impressed by her."

Some students often have trouble deciding on one academic major that they like, but Tucker's conundrum was at the other end of the spectrum. "I never really disliked any subjects, so it was hard to pick a major," she says. "I finally decided I wanted to go into business and thought accounting would keep the most doors open for me. It's the nuts and bolts of any business, a good starting point."

John Tucker, who also majored in accounting at Notre Dame, provides his own succinct summation of the study: "In accounting, everything has its place. It's just recording things. If you have a structured mind, it's a good subject to pursue.

"His daughter's structured mind prefers the clearcut nature of accounting. "How you are graded is pretty straightforward and it's just a matter of doing the work, learning the material," she says. "But classes where the grading is less clear, or the requirements more fuzzy, have been the toughest to estimate what my grade will be."

Tucker's favorite class at Notre Dame - Tax Assistance Program - fittingly is one that has incorporated a human-interaction element. "We went weekly to a public library to assist with tax returns for low-income and elderly people. We met a lot of really neat people and learned a lot, about the people we were helping and about the tax system. It was a very enjoyable experience."

Her most challenging course so far at Notre Dame has the curious name of "Foresight" and involves creating a semester-long, group project. The group partners tackle a current business problem and offer a potential solution. "It's a lot or work and we never seem to be able to get everything right," explains Tucker, who usually is known for her tremendous foresight and diligent planning.

Calm Recovery

A classic "Tucker story" unfolded on the day the team was set to depart for the second roadtrip of her freshman season. Tucker was entering a classroom for her Calculus 2 exam, but there ended up being confusion beyond the math questions.

"I asked some kids if they were there for the `calc exam' and they said they were, and then there was a different professor proctoring the exam but he said not to worry if we did not recognize him, because the normal professor was sick," explains Tucker.

By the time Tucker realized she indeed was taking the wrong exam (Calculus 1 instead of Calc 2), she scurried to the next classroom and was relieved to see her normal professor administering the correct test. With only 40 minutes to complete the exam, she scored a 100% and sprinted to the awaiting team bus.

"That story may not sound like a big deal, but I can tell you that most of our kids would have been freaking out simply by having to take a calculus test," laughs Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum. "But then to be in the wrong room and knowing the team is getting ready to leave, that normally would create a lot more panic. But Liz never got rattled, and she aced the test. Later that day, she scored both goals in our hard-fought win at DePaul."

Fitness Freak

Tucker had first started turning heads at Notre Dame several weeks earlier, during one annual rite of passage for all varsity student-athletes: preseason fitness testing. Whether it was the dreaded "yo-yo intermittent beep tests," the 300-yard shuttle runs, agility tests or even an occasional Cooper distance test, the high-energy rookie repeatedly graded out at the top.

In the two previous seasons, Molly Campbell (a junior in 2010) had been the runaway leader atop the Notre Dame women's soccer preseason fitness testing charts. In 2010, there was a new name at the top of those lists.

"Elizabeth was off the charts in those fitness tests her freshman year and continued to be among our team leaders every preseason," says Waldrum. "She easily is one of the all-time leaders in the history of our program when it comes to fitness preparedness."

In the months leading up to her freshman year, Tucker was well aware that Notre Dame's roster was stocked with elite-level talent. "Knowing so many others on the team had greater skill, I focused on what I could control first," explains the fitness-test guru. "One of those things I could control was being in way better shape than everyone else."

Tucker's preparation was simple: she developed her own summer regimen, a preseason to the preseason if you will. The workouts included an assortment of sprints, often around routes that she concocted to resemble a midfielder's typical running patterns.

Did we mention this all was done outdoors? In the summer ... in Florida ... often in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

"Elizabeth was religious about her conditioning that summer and she was miserable, but she did every single drill," says her still unbelieving sister Kate. "I used to run with her sometimes, never for the whole workout but enough to keep her company.

"I always felt like I was watching some kind of movie out there on the field with her. She has so much fight and drive and never gave up. I would always think, `Uhh, hello, we are on some random field in Florida, do you think anyone is ever going to know if you were five seconds late on that last sprint?' But she always would time herself, to make sure she wasn't slacking off."

The experience left a lasting impression on a proud older sister.

"That's when I found out how tough Elizabeth really is," says Kate. "It gives you a little glimpse into how she approaches most things in her life and shows why she is one of the most committed people I know."

Quite a First Impression

Waldrum and his staff had been aware of Tucker during her club soccer days and ultimately made her a "recruited non-scholarship" addition to the program. "We liked Elizabeth as a player and knew she could add depth, but we didn't see her becoming a bigger impact type of player," says the 15th-year Irish head coach.

That evaluation/projection all changed a few months later, when Tucker burst onto the scene fit as a fiddle.

"When we got into the preseason of Elizabeth's freshman year, we quickly realized that she was better than we anticipated," says Waldrum, "Then, after two weeks at the end of the preseason, we thought she may be in our top 11 ... and she's started ever since. That's kind of the definition of Tucker: she sets her mind to something and does it.

"We had a lot of crafty and skillful players in our midfield but they would not do the dirty work like Elizabeth would, defending and chasing all over the field. She most often was our key marking defender in the middle third of the field, and she ended up scoring nine goals, many of them in big situations."

Clutch Performer

Tucker's combination of grittiness and clutch play was on center stage in late November during the 2010 NCAA quarterfinal showdown at Oklahoma State. The Florida native battled near-freezing temperatures and a severe early-game ankle sprain to score a couple late goals, in a 2-0 victory that helped propel the Irish on to winning the national championship.                                


            

Tucker is second among active Notre Dame players with 16 career goals


            

            

            



Previously in her soccer career, Tucker had never been seriously injured in a game. After spraining her ankle a couple minutes into the action at Oklahoma State, she played through the pain before later being subbed out 15 minutes before halftime.

"After the injury, I did not want to leave the game because you can't re-enter in the first half," says Tucker. "It was such a cool experience playing in a game of that magnitude, I didn't want to miss being a part of it."

After sitting out at the end of the first half, Tucker was determined to avoid starting the second half back on the frigid aluminum team benches. She returned to the field a few minutes early during the halftime break in order to test the ankle and gave the Irish coaches the thumbs-up.

Eighteen minutes into the second half, Tucker was perfectly positioned at the top of the six-yard box to redirect a Fowlkes centering pass for the 1-0 lead. The Notre Dame coaches then opted to rest their pain-stricken freshman, who returned to action 15 minutes later and ultimately scored again in the final minute, on a similar play set up by Melissa Henderson's cross.

"I was in the right place at the right time and got two great assists from my teammates," says the understated Tucker. "I just had to tap the ball in."

Left Back Lift

Tucker's physical gifts and extreme versatility have allowed her to play all over the field for Notre Dame, most recently at her new position of left back.

"Elizabeth's versatility is a rarity in the college game," notes Waldrum. "She can get up and down the line, runs all day, is tough in tight spaces, and makes things happen with the ball when needed. She has an engine that does not stop."

Using a mixture of strategy and psychology, the Notre Dame coaches - without any advance notice - inserted Tucker as the starting left back for the first time during the Aug. 14 preseason exhibition versus Xavier.

"Elizabeth is very analytical and likes to think through everything, so we purposely did not tell her ahead of time about shifting her to left back," explains Waldrum. "She ended up doing great there in the exhibition games and I really think she has the chance to be one of the better left backs in the country.

"We have not overcoached her with this new position responsibility, we've maybe given her a few nuggets but we just want her to play off her instincts. We always love to attack out of the back, but we thought left back was going to be a big question mark for us this season. Now it may be a strength."

Tucker - who had not played outside back since she was 12 - joins an impressive list of Waldrum-era players who embarked on their college careers having previously been longtime forwards or midfielders before ultimately converting to become stellar outside backs. That group includes the likes of Monica Gonzalez, South Bend native Lindsey Jones, Vanessa Pruzinsky, Candace Chapman and Elise Weber (who had played as a midfielder for Wisconsin before transferring to Notre Dame). Gonzalez, currently an ESPN soccer sideline reporter, later migrated to a center back role near the end of her college career and went on to captain the inaugural Mexican Women's National Team. Chapman also later fashioned her own international acclaim, while playing on the back line for the Canadian National Team.

Pruzinsky - the national high school player of the year as a high-scoring forward for Trumbull (Conn.) High School in the late 1990s - has much more in common with Tucker than a collegiate position shift. In the spring of 2003, Pruzinsky became only the third Notre Dame chemical engineering major (athlete or otherwise) to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. A couple years earlier, she became the first female student ever to earn an A grade in Notre Dame's sophomore-year introduction to chemical engineering course.

Serving the Community

While recently writing a recommendation for Tucker, Waldrum was "shocked" when discovering her extensive community service over the past four years.

"I had forgotten the sheer magnitude of community service Elizabeth has done during her career here, and many times she has been the one organizing the service activities for the team," says the pleasantly surprised coach.

"When you add in her academic regimen and soccer team responsibilities, that's a tremendous amount of time commitments. We're talking about a very talented and special young lady here."

It All Comes Back to Accountability

Waldrum concedes that he unfortunately does not know John and Julie Tucker all that well ... but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Elizabeth's parents of course have supported the team when we've been in Florida and things like that, but they are very non-intrusive in general," says Waldrum "They've never called to talk about playing time or anything else involving their daughter as part of the soccer program.

"They support their daughter but it's also very clear they expect Elizabeth to take responsibility for her own situation and to have accountability for her own life. They know she's a young adult who can handle it herself."

Most telling of all? When the time came for Waldrum to discuss Tucker's well-deserved scholarship allocation, the coach never even talked to to the parents. "All of the talks about getting her a scholarship were done directly with Liz," notes Waldrum. "Again, this all goes back to her parents setting a great foundation for their daughter to be accountable for herself."

Options for the Future

Tucker spent the 2011 and 2012 summers back home in Jacksonville, interning with KPMG's healthcare advisory group. This past summer, she took one of those steps outside her comfort zone, living in Chicago while interning with a Deloitte mergers and acquisitions group. "I enjoy interacting with people and that was a great experience to see how accounting actually comes into play within the business world," says Tucker. "It's more than just sitting in a cubicle, crunching numbers."

That experience also meant a lot to Tucker's parents. "Elizabeth was living in the big city, paying all her own bills and managing her life," says her impressed father John. "That's what every parent wants, for their kids to be independent and capable."

Tucker already has a postgraduate job offer from Deloitte, with a mergers and acquisitions group in New York City, but she also may opt for some sort of postgraduate studies rather than jumping immediately into the working world.

"I am much tougher emotionally now than when I first came to college," concludes Tucker. "Prior to college, I didn't really run into any big setbacks or challenges. Having to battle for a starting spot day in and day out, against your best friends, has been a unique challenge.

"Learning how to handle that pressure of constant competition, while still being a good friend, student and sister, hopefully has prepared me to handle a life that I'm sure will only get busier."

Count Waldrum among those with plenty of confidence in Tucker's postgraduate career, saying: "Elizabeth Tucker simple is the most grounded young person I've ever known. She `gets it.' "

One thing is for certain: no matter where her future may take her, Elizabeth Tucker will be accountable for herself.

You can take that to the bank.