Natalie Kennedy spent the first years she can remember on the sidelines watching her two older sisters play soccer. Then she got her chance to take the field.
“My dad was always involved coaching [my older sisters], and I’d watch them and look up to them,” says Kennedy. “I always knew I wanted to play that sport.”
The senior and center midfielder for Santa Margarita Catholic High School knows that playing on both sides of the ball requires Kennedy to keep her work rate high, and that her improvement as a player is never complete.
“What I love about soccer is I think your development as a player is limitless,” says Kennedy. “If you think you’re done getting better, I think that’s when you need to be done playing.”
As a three-year varsity player and two-year captain for the Eagles, Kennedy has been committed to the development of her game, but spent most of her junior season on the sidelines with a lingering ankle injury. The disappointment that came from having to sit out turned into a blessing.
“Looking back, I’m happy that [the injury] happened, because I think it made me better and really strengthened my faith life,” says the 18-year old. “Having to step back from my sport and reevaluate my faith in my life at that point, it helped me and strengthened my faith.”
Girls soccer head coach at Santa Margarita, Chuck Morales, has seen Kennedy’s commitment and the impact it’s had on the Eagles program.
“This season Natalie has meant everything to her teammates by working the hardest and complaining the very least,” says Morales. “Simply stated, Natalie plays at a 150 percent rate and always gives her best while never sharing an unkind word with any teammate. For these reasons and countless others, Natalie is the most positive role model I have had to date in our girls soccer program.”
Having finished her sophomore year as a CIF champion, Kennedy wanted nothing more than to close out her high school career with that same achievement. The Eagles did just that, defeating Tesoro High School 3-1 in the Division I CIF-SS Championship game. Rewarded for her efforts, Kennedy was also named the 2016 All-CIF Division I Player of the Year.
After graduation, the Foothill Ranch resident is headed to Santa Clara University where she will follow in the footsteps of her mother and sister and play soccer for the Broncos. While there, Kennedy plans to study for a career in medicine, applying the many lessons she’s learned from the game.
“I’ve learned a lot of things from soccer, but definitely looking back…you have to put in hard work if you want to get somewhere with your talent,” says Kennedy. “Talent isn’t enough. You have to keep building on it.”