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Sacred Heart's splendid savior

Natalie Zeenni was the most dependable defender on CIF-champion squad known for shutting down the best

April 22, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • Flintridge Sacred Heart's Natalie Zeenni is the 2011 All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year.
Flintridge Sacred Heart's Natalie Zeenni is the… (Tim Berger, Glendale…)

With a season and a first-ever CIF championship appearance on the line, Natalie Zeenni was there.

Once more, with the stakes and the stage at an even higher level in the CIF Southern Section Division I championship, Natalie Zeenni was there — on two occasions in fact — to once again save the day.

Over the span of the last three soccer seasons, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's success has expanded into the program's greatest accomplishments and, inevitably, the area's. And every season, Natalie Zeenni has been there, she's been a constant.

Tireless in her approach on the field, she was a dogged defender able to lead the charge in shutting down many of the nation's best offenses this past season. She's showcased the versatility to be an outstanding midfielder, as well, and when needed most, she's stepped up to be a leader for a Tologs team venturing into the uncharted waters of unprecedented CIF triumph.

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A game-changer and a difference-maker no matter where she was on the field, she possessed a flair for the dramatic. Whether it was tracking down a forward on a potential scoring run, pushing the ball up the field to start a Tologs scoring chance or her borderline unbelievable knack for stopping shots on the backline — of which she slid to stop one in the aforementioned semifinal before stopping two shots on the goalline in the championship game — Zeenni's play was a catalyst in the orchestration of the greatest girls' soccer season in area history.

"We all relied on her," says Tologs junior defender Katelyn Almeida. "Everybody counted on her.

"We call her the savior."

And for the second straight season, she was voted the All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year by the sports editors and writers of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.

As a sophomore transfer from Arcadia, Zeenni came to Flintridge Sacred Heart with an already established reputation as a terrific defensive soccer player. But from the moment she stepped on the La Cañada Flintridge campus, her reputation, right along with the Tologs' success, has grown by leaps and bounds.

"For the most part, you know what you're gonna get with Natalie," Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace says. "The knowledge that Natalie was on the field always gave us a leg up on the competition."

Through three years of varsity soccer, Zeenni's statistical line boasts only three goals and six assists. But offensive statistics were hardly the measure of the defensive standout.

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