Natalie Dierickx didn’t always play soccer between the goalposts.
While growing up, she was one of her team’s top scorers until the squad was short of a goalkeeper one season. She was taller than her junior high teammates and agreed to give the position a shot.
“I ended up being good at it and stuck with it,” said Dierickx, now 21, with a laugh over the phone as she traveled with her Western Washington University team on the bus from Bellingham toward a match against St. Martin’s University in Lacey on Sept. 27.
Dierickx — who grew up in Kirkland and graduated from Inglemoor High in 2016 — still shines while protecting the net and was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week for Sept. 17-23.
The redshirt sophomore goalkeeper — who attended Colorado State University for one semester before transferring to WWU — notched nine saves that week against the Colorado School of Mines (2-1 win) and Simon Fraser (1-0 win). She made nine saves in a 1-0 loss to Concordia on Sept. 15 and at press time posted four shutouts this season.
“It was a big confidence-booster for me and showed that my hard work had paid off,” said Dierickx, noting that team chemistry also played a role in the award and in WWU’s successful season (the Vikings were 9-2 at press time and ranked 17th in NCAA Division II). “I just stayed busy. It was a really good test for me as a redshirt last year and I was nervous to get to prove myself.”
WWU head coach Travis Connell said that Dierickx has been resilient in putting in the time and continuing to improve. Connell added that his starting keeper is talented, brave, communicates well with her teammates and uses her feet to start the attack.
“Natalie is one of the leaders of our team. She cares about her teammates and is constantly checking in on them and putting the needs of others before her own,” the coach noted.
While playing Crossfire Premier club ball as a teen, Dierickx experienced team bonding that has stuck with her since and she’s glad her WWU teammates possess a similar chemistry that keeps building each day.
Looking back on her goalkeeping career, Dierickx — who was a first-team all-4A KingCo selection as an Inglemoor senior — likes that she made the switch to the position as a youth.
“It taught me so many different things — leadership and commitment. Not only do I use those on the field, I use them off the field,” said Dierickx, adding that she’s experienced a transformation in her persona over the years.
After playing at Colorado State for one season, she missed home and being around her family. There were some crucial life lessons on the docket as well.
“I learned patience, that was a tough one for me,” she said about her Colorado experience. “At Western, we emphasize the word ‘grind,’ and I think that’s really helped me.”
Dierickx said they strive for consistency and are continuously working toward achieving success.