Raised in Bonney Lake, Washington, second goaltender Brynna Nixon spent her Sunday afternoons watching Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks with her family.
Nixon said she admires Wilson and looks up to him for proving his doubters wrong.
“I looked up to him a lot because he was little and that’s why everyone said he couldn’t play in the NFL,” Nixon said. “He took that in stride and said, ‘I’m small and I can’t change that, but I’m still going to be a great player.'”
Nixon has now adopted the same mentality as the starting goaltender for the Marquette women’s lacrosse team.
But for Nixon, her athletic career began on the football field in the second grade.
“I asked my mom and dad if I could play soccer because I saw this flyer for a junior soccer league,” Nixon said. “They didn’t say no, but it took them some convincing to let me play because they were afraid I might get hurt. But they were super supportive and never said, ‘You can’t play soccer because you’re a girl.'”
After starting out in the Trojans’ junior football program in the second grade, Nixon was eventually placed on the roster at Fife High School, run by head coach Kent Nevin.
“(I met her) when she was in fifth grade, she played soccer for our junior soccer program,” Nevin said. “She came right up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Brynna Nixon and I’ll play for you when I get to Fife.’ I will never forget that.”
Then Nixon made history during her junior year.
In a playoff game, Nixon became the first woman to throw a touchdown pass in Washington state history, with a 25-yard pass that landed in the breadbasket of the receiver’s hands.
“I still think about it, even though it happened four years ago,” Nixon said. “Part of me feels like a trailblazer, but at the same time, I’ve also done what every other guy has done.”
Nixon secured the seed in their final season and led the Trojans to a 4-2 record.
“She ran our offense better than any of the other guys, she was at it for so long and did it so well, she was so meticulous and she’s such a competitor,” Nevin said. “Her senior year we had a younger quarterback and so it was a competition and she won.”
Despite this success, it wasn’t all positive for the senior signal caller.
“The biggest obstacle I had was that I was a girl who played football. Other teams I would play against would shoot me cheaply to take me out of the game,” Nixon said. “It was those things that made it the hardest, because if I were a man, that wouldn’t happen.”
As she went through these challenges, Nixon revisited an aspect that has carried her all along the way.
“When they said I couldn’t do it, I thought, yeah, I’m not stopping (and) I’ll prove you wrong,” Nixon said.
Sophomore midfielder Lorelai VanGuilder knows what it was like playing sports with boys because she played hockey at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, Minnesota.
“Being a woman in sports is hard enough, and playing with guys is tough mentally and physically,” VanGuilder said. “She took it like a boss because she is one, she’s awesome.”
While Nixon played for the Trojans football team in the fall, he also played lacrosse in the spring starting in fourth grade.
After reaching high school, Nixon guided Fife to three championship titles (2018, 2019, 2021) in her four years. After graduating as the best career savings percentage ever, Nixon joined Marquette heading into the 2021-2022 school year.
Assistant coach Jill Rizzo said she’s seen the same attitude Nixon had in high school carry over to her college career.
“She lives with integrity and does what she says,” Rizzo said. “She’s definitely taken on that ‘I’m going to prove you prove you wrong’ attitude and made a lot of changes in a positive direction.”
Rizzo said this behavior spreads to the rest of the team.
“You can just feel their energy and it spreads to everyone from our defenses down to the attackers,” Rizzo said. “She’s just so contagious with her love and energy.”
After proving everyone wrong to this point, Nixon said she wanted to prove a few more people wrong about the Golden Eagles.
“A lot of teams count us because we have Denver and UConn in our conference, so they have the spotlight in the Great East,” Nixon said. “I think we’ve got a great team this year and we can go really far, so it proves people wrong about counting us out a lot (and) I like doing that.”
The Story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.