Waxahachie’s Natalie Kelly is an all-state defender for the Lady Indian soccer team but it was her play with her select team, the Dallas Solar White, that caught the attention of Louisiana Tech head coach Kevin Sherry and resulted in a dream come true for the Waxahachie High School senior.
“I saw Natalie at a showcase tournament in September in Dallas. I don’t usually go to this tournament because it falls during our fall season, but we had a home game Friday and Sunday and thought why not go for the Saturday? I did and there I found Natalie,” Sherry said.
“I had been watching a few games and was starting to get a little frustrated as to not seeing the level of player we need when I found myself at the side of the field where Natalie was playing. Within five minutes I knew this was the player for me. Her awareness of what was around her and simplicity of play was far and beyond anyone at the tournament. It was fate!”
Sherry was so impressed with Kelly that he offered her a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream by playing soccer at a Division I university.
“Signing with a Division 1 college has always been my goal. I never planned on going to a smaller school just to play soccer. I love soccer, but I know my education is more important. So the fact that I’m getting to have both is a real blessing,” Kelly said.
Once an offer was extended, Kelly made the trip to Ruston, La. to visit the university and see if it would be the place she would call home for the next four years.
“I took an official visit within two weeks of the coach contacting me about playing. I was skeptical at first, because I had always wanted to go to a larger school; however, once I talked to the coach I felt really comfortable and liked the atmosphere and situation,” Kelly said.
She verbally committed to LA Tech in October and on National Signing Day, Wednesday, Feb. 2, made it official by signing her National Letter of Intent and faxing it to Louisiana Tech.
“I had a school from North Carolina, Elon University, who wanted me to come visit, but I turned it down considering I had already made my decision. After I committed I stopped reaching out to other colleges,” Kelly said. “I am super excited to get to play at the next level. I feel like the reason I am going to Louisiana Tech is a God thing because before I got the e-mail from the head coach I had never looked into Louisiana Tech. I look forward to getting to play and seeing what’s ahead for me.”
A starter for the Lady Indians since her freshman year, Kelly was named first team all-district as a freshman, all-state defender as a sophomore and all-region defender as a junior. She earned district defensive MVP status her sophomore and juniors seasons while being named team MVP on both occasions.
A captain the last two years, Kelly has 27 goals and 43 assists in her four seasons with the Lady Indians including six goals this year.
“We are very happy Natalie is joining us, she is a very intelligent defender who could and may find herself playing in midfield here at Tech. Natalie has a sixth sense of knowing what is happening around her at all times on the field, and can make correct decisions accordingly with the big picture in mind,” Sherry said. “This is a rare quality to have in a player so young. Natalie is a good organizer of those around her and I have no doubt that she will develop into a future leader of our program.”
Receiving a partial athletic scholarship and a partial academic scholarship, Kelly’s pursuit of a double major in marketing and Spanish will be completely paid for by the university as she helps it climb to the top of the West Athletic Conference.
“Obviously as a freshman I am gonna have to prove myself, and work extremely hard to do so. I would love to get the opportunity to start as a freshman, and plan to do everything that I can personally to make that happen,” Kelly said. “Last year was the first year they made it to the conference tournament, and played really well. It is a big deal to even make it that far. Also, throughout the season they had a very good record. Coach Sherry, the current head coach, has completely restructured the team and has made them very successful.”
With a 9-0-2 start to the season, Kelly has a little work to do for the Lady Indians before she takes the next step. Before the season the team set goals of reaching the state tournament and with Kelly on defense anything is possible.
“She has been the backbone of our defense since she arrived,” Waxahachie head coach Jason Venable said. “She is a tough, gutsy player who may be the best total player that has walked through the halls at Waxahachie High School, at least since I have been here. Her love for the game along with her work ethic make it a no-brainer that someone would offer her to come make their team better. Excellence in the classroom and on the field make her a perfect candidate for any soccer program. She is a great person and will do well on the field and in life. She has a great head on her shoulders and will make Waxahachie High School and Waxahachie High School soccer proud. She has allowed us to be successful the past couple of years going to the regional tournament and will be a big part of our run hopefully this year as well.”
Kelly is one of 10 players who signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday to join the Lady Techsters next season.
“I am extremely proud of this year’s recruiting class,” Sherry said. “Putting this class together was a real joy as we had to sift through a lot of high level potential recruits, who had shown interest in us, to finally decide on this final group.”
Former Red Oak forward Lauren Stewart, also a member of the Dallas Solar soccer club, was one of eight players that signed from Texas Wednesday while the school brought in one player, Kirsty Palfreyman, from London.
Louisiana Tech only lost one player from last year’s team, but loaded up with recruits to prepare for the loss of seven players after next season.
“We are extremely proud with the success we have achieved recently,” Sherry said of his team that finished 15-6, the best ever at Tech, “but we do not intend to rest on our laurels, as we seek to push forward with our development as a team. In order to achieve this, we do need to recruit the best student-athletes we can find each and every year. I believe we have done so with this class.”