By DAN SARGENT
EVERETT — Cascade’s Natalie Hardin was filled with excitement when she found out that she had been named The Herald’s All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
"I was jumping around the house when my dad told me the news," Hardin said.
Hardin, a senior at Cascade High School, holds season and career scoring and assists records for the Bruins. Hardin scored 18 goals to lead the Western Conference 4A this year and had eight assists to lead the Bruins, who were co-champions of the conference. She finished her career with 28 goals and 24 assists.
"She has been consistently a very consistent player for us," Bruins coach Jamie Gay said.
Hardin began her career at Cascade as the only freshman to make the varsity team.
"I was a little intimidated at first because they were so much bigger than I was," Hardin said. "I got some jokes played on me, but for the most part it was a pretty fun season that year."
"From a coaching standpoint," Gay said, "those players who make the varsity team have to earn it."
Hardin doesn’t consider herself superstitious, but she had to warm up before every game with fellow senior Megan Lienhard in a certain way or, she said, they would lose.
Another superstition that started with the Bruins was the "Lucky Lollies." When Hardin was a junior and the Bruins were playing rival Snohomish, Hardin’s mother brought lollypops in a decorated bag before the game for all the players. Cascade ended up winning the game and the lollipops became a fixture at Cascade games.
"We won one game and then the next and the next and then it just became a routine to have them before every game," Hardin said. "We forgot them one game and I had to call my mom to bring them to us so we would stop freaking out."
Hardin said this season was the most fun she has ever had playing soccer. A major part of her fun was getting the chance to play with her sister, forward Bree Hardin.
"I have watched her grow as a player and it was the most fun I have ever had playing with her," Natalie Hardin said.
Practices got playful at times, as Hardin and her teammates would get goofy in an effort to lighten Gay’s mood.
"We would try to get him to laugh, but we knew when we had to be serious and be focused," Hardin said. "Overall we were just trying to make it as fun as possible."
Off the field, Hardin is a typical teen-ager, going to movies and, most of all, having fun with her friends. She is an avid "Dawson’s Creek" follower and even holds gatherings for the TV show.
Hardin started playing soccer at age 6 when her father encouraged her to take up the sport. She credits former Shooting Stars coach Shannon Murray for much of her success.
"He was the one that kept telling me that I have what it takes to play in college," Hardin said. "He was the one that inspired me, taught me to play with confidence and I really admire him as a person as well."
That confidence has rubbed off into other aspects of her life. She carries a 3.4 grade point average and has been named a scholar athlete all four years in high school. She was voted most inspirational by her senior class for always pushing teammates and friends toward accomplishing their goals.
Hardin’s willingness to see her friends succeed came through when her club team, the Northwest Nationals, went to Texas for a college showcase tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend. Hardin, who wants to play college soccer close to home, went to Texas in part to help her teammates get noticed by college recruiters.
Hardin hopes college will carry her toward a career as an elementary school teacher. She said she has been contacted by Portland State, Seattle University and Gonzaga, but hasn’t made a choice.
Wherever she goes, she’s sure to make an impact.
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