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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Western Goalkeeper Leads Fight for NCAA Title

Natalie Dierickx takes a goal kick in the Western women’s soccer game against rival Seattle Pacific University on Oct. 24, 2019. // Photo by Ian Haupt

By Elizabeth Mahan

At just four-years-old, Natalie Dierickx took her first touch of a soccer ball and immediately fell in love.  

After that first touch, Dierickx decided to focus on soccer and joined Crossfire Elite Clubs National League, a premier club team located in Redmond, Washington, an easy 15-minute drive from her hometown of Kirkland, Washington. The club helped her prepare for the journey after high school.

“I was at practice one night, and my coach told us that our keeper wasn’t with us anymore and asked me if I wanted to try, and I ended up being good at it, so I stuck with it,” Dierickx said.

The 2019 season showed her skills as a player, on and off the field.

Natalie Dierickx //Photo courtesy of WWU athletics

A total of eight goals have been scored out of the 150 shots taken on her. She has earned First Team All-GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) honors for the second consecutive season and has been added to the roster for the NCAA Division II All-West Region team.  

She also has helped lead the team with a record of 22-2-0 on the season and an undefeated record of 12-0-0 in the GNAC.

Dierickx’s collegiate journey didn’t start at Western. She spent her first year playing for the Colorado State University Rams. In 2017, Dierickx transferred to Western and was put on the roster as a redshirt sophomore. 

Since she became the starting goalkeeper in the 2018 season, she has played a total of 44 games and spent 3,824 minutes on the field.

“[Dierickx] is an incredibly important player on our team,” head coach Travis Connell said. “She helps our attack, and her talent and ability to make saves enables us to take more risks, defensively, all over the field.” 

Dierickx attributes the success of the team to their close bond and teamwork.

“I never thought that I could grow so close to a group like I have with this team,” Dierickx said. “It feels like a family, and that is also what makes us so successful on the field. We always remind each other to play for each other, and we try to be as supportive as we can.”

The team’s close relationship helped them grow in their skills, keep a championship’s mindset and a fighting mentality, and support one another, Dierickx said.

“This game and this team has taught me so much about teamwork, and that it is not about the individual. You can achieve so much more if you work together, and sometimes the best thing is to think about what is best for the group rather than what is best for you,” Dierickx said.

Dierickx has a lot to balance between school, soccer and her personal life. Traveling to in-state and out-of-state schools to play games puts up a little road bump, but communication between players, coaches, and professors makes it manageable, Dierickx said.

“Coming to practice with a consistent attitude of wanting to get better, it makes it easier come game time to get into the zone and really focus on the goals you want to achieve during the game, which is obviously a shutout but also just doing your best,” Dierickx said.

During her free time, Dierickx said she works on homework, spends time with friends and, most importantly, sleeps.

“I try as much as possible to stay in the moment through communication, be it just direction or encouragement,” said Dierickx.

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