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Saving the best for last

Two-time All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year led Tologs to greatest girls' soccer season in area history.

August 17, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

Tucked away inside the Glendale News-Press offices on an early July afternoon, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's Natalie Zeenni, the 2011 News-Press Female Athlete of the Year, seems just a bit uneasy as she sits down to answer questions with a camera focused on her shooting away.

It's not a naturally comfortable experience, mind you, with somebody firing off questions as a photographer clicks away with every shot focused only on you.

But in the three years that I've known Natalie Zeenni, I can't remember ever getting the feeing she was uncomfortable.

No matter how daunting the opposition was that the Tologs were facing, she never seemed out of her game or overmatched. No matter how intense or long the game turned out to be, her legs always seemed to be fresh and her step always seemed to be quick. Indeed, to watch Zeenni play her game and play at her speed at an unrelenting pace was a pleasure.

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Whether Sacred Heart won, lost or tied in a nonleague game, Mission League nailbiter or CIF roller coaster, she never seemed daunted by the task of fielding questions from this writer and that reporter and was never anything but 100% candid and honest.

Hence, she would tell you with half a grin that she wasn't exactly what you would call a good practice player. And yet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who played the sport of soccer as doggedly as she did during a game.

A transfer from Arcadia High before her sophomore year, Zeenni made an immediate impact with the Tologs as an All-CIF, All-Area and All-Mission League defender that was the perfect compliment to an already stifling Sacred Heart defense. With Zeenni as one of the Tologs' top players, Sacred Heart would win its first-ever Mission League title and, as the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs, notch a first-round playoff victory that the Tologs program hadn't tasted in years. A 1-0 loss to the Saugus Centurions — the eventual champions — would only serve as motivation and an integral part in the following season's storyline.

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