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OC's Natalie Jacobs: The next generation of U.S. Soccer

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Orange County has produced its fair share of great female soccer players. From exciting high school players such as Lauren Bohaboy (SMCHS) to amazing college standouts such as Coco Goodson (UCI) and from Women’s World Cup legends such as Julie Foudy (Mission Viejo) and Joy Fawcett (Edison) to 2-time USWNT Olympic gold medal-winner, Amy Rodriguez (SMCHS).

So it’s no surprise that the current U.S. Women’s National Youth Teams are ripping at the seams with OC locals. A few on the radar include: Maddy Bauer (Mater Dei/Slammers FC); Alison Jahansouz (Edison HS/So Cal Blues); Danielle Weatherholt (San Clemente HS/So Cal Blues); Indigo Gibson (Tesoro HS/Slammers FC); Natalie Ward (Newport Harbor HS/Slammers FC); Kat Hess (Corona del Mar HS/LA Premier); and Natalie Jacobs (Tesoro HS/Slammers FC), to name a few.

I recently caught up with Tesoro’s Nat Jacobs at Stub Hub Center in Carson where the 16-year old recently finished up her stay on the U.S. Under-17 squad at the National Team Center (NTC) Invitational.

It was a chilly night and the the soccer stand-out just celebrated a 2-1 victory against Japan. Jacobs is the epitome of a team member, even down to the way she prefers to use the pronoun 'we' instead of 'I' – reminding us of one of the many reasons women's soccer is so special in the United States.

A strong, physical presence on the backline, Jacobs has a reputation for being a tough defender whose height and power allows her to effortlessly clear out balls with either foot or head.

Being such a physical player takes pace and patience, especially in a grueling tournament schedule such as the four-day NTC Invite. But the physically imposing Jacobs, takes it in stride. “We're able to recover between games. It's hard, but mentally we get through it and we just have to prepare for the next game,” says the 5-foot-8 defender.

It’s been an emotional year for the Tesoro High School junior as she saw her hopes of U-17 World Cup glory dashed in a heartbreaking defeat against Mexico at the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 World Cup qualifier last November. However, when describing her feelings, the young footballer still stays positive, “That was hard, but winning this game just means so much. In the end we're all happy.”

Not only was the U.S. squad a heavy favorite to win CONCACAF, they were being touted as the “team to beat” at FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2014 coming up in March. After going unbeaten in the world cup qualifier, they drew with Mexico in a win-or-go-home semifinal match, where they fell in penalty kicks (4-2).

“Sometimes the best team doesn’t always win,” says U.S. Women’s National Team U-17 head coach, B.J. Snow. “But what we've really talked about with the girls is putting the past in the past and continuing to focus on the future, which includes their development”.

As an international friendly, the NTC Invite served as a tune up for Japan, New Zealand and China as they prepare for U-17 Women’s World Cup. But for the U.S. squad, it was an opportunity to give the fans one last look at the team before the players born after January 1, 1997 and '98 depart for the U-18 and U-20 squads. And for Jacobs (who turns 17 in September), this marked the last time she’ll play with many of her teammates… at least for awhile.

“It's kind of bittersweet. I mean its awesome winning this tournament, but not being able to play with the team for a awhile is a little sad. A lot of us are moving on to Under-18 and the Under-20 pool, then we'll come back for different camps later in the year and we'll get back together."

Upon graduating from Tesoro next year, Jacobs is committed to play for Notre Dame. When asked if she was disappointed that Randy Waldrum is no longer the head coach (he left to coach NWSL expansion team, Houston Dash), Jacobs says she’s not concerned. “I was surprised when I heard he was leaving, but they have a good program there and they'll find a good coach. I'm looking forward to it.”

Jacobs also plays for the Slammers FC, of the Elite Club National League, and like a lot of young players, she’s looking forward to a career as a pro.“We're all working towards that,” she says, not forgetting her teammates.

Despite being an intricate part of the future for the U.S. Women's National Team, Jacobs is still just an Orange County girl at heart who loves doing the things that most high school kids love. “Most of the time I'm hanging out at the beach. The beach and the movies,” she laughs and then runs off to celebrate with her team.

To keep up to date on local athletes follow @OCHSSports on Twitter!

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