Freshman scores remarkable soccer season


She's still in her first semester at MCLA, but already Natalie Caney '17 of Belchertown, Mass., (right, in the white jersey) has made a big impact on the campus as she burst onto the Trailblazers' soccer field. During her very first season, she scored 17 goals.

While Caney came to MCLA with a decorated high school career that included three sectional titles and a trip to the state final, her soccer career actually began at the age of 3. She's been playing ever since.

"I loved playing for this team," Caney said of her first season with the Trailblazers. "Before I got here, I was really nervous about playing and I was worried about all the upperclassmen I thought they were intimidating. But ... everyone on the team was so welcoming and encouraging, we became very close in a short amount of time."

Soccer, said Caney, has taught her much about life and success.

"I don't know where I would be without soccer," she said. "I believe it defines me as a person. Soccer has taught me how to work with others, what it is like to be on a team, to never give up, perseverance, dedication and hard work.

"When I play soccer I feel like I am in my own world, like nothing can touch me. I can be so creative and just have fun - soccer provides me with so much freedom," Caney continued. "For 90 minutes I can forget about everything and just be me. I love how I can look for ways to become a better player. Every time I play, I learn something new."

Caney's 17 goals this first season tied the all-time freshman record set by Roberta Smith in 1987. She went on to be picked as a first team All-Conference selection, earned the MASCAC Rookie of the Year award - not once, but five times this season.

The Trailblazers finished up Caney's rookie season with an 8-10 record that included a 1-0 defeat in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs to Bridgewater State, which eventually won the MASCAC championship.

Caney chose MCLA because of its small, tight-knit atmosphere.

"Everyone seemed so close and I knew I would get the help that I needed at this school. The classes are small and that is the kind of learning environment that I need," she said. "MCLA also has a lot of activities and clubs to participate in. There is always something going on."

Since arriving at MCLA, "I take things a lot more seriously and I have made friends with people that I normally wouldn't. I am open to trying new things."

And, academically, Caney is "doing a lot better than I did in high school."

"The professors are all very approachable and if I need help with anything they wouldn't hesitate to help me in any way that they can," she said.

While she's still deciding on a major, Caney is considering sociology. "I love to learn about people ... and what makes them do the things they do."

Her dream, however, is to become a professional soccer player.

"When I play soccer I don't have to think about anything [or] what my next move is going to be. ... I just play," she explained. "I think it's funny when people ask me, 'How did you think to do that move?' or 'How did you make that pass?' All I can say is, 'I don't know,' because I honestly don't.  It just kind of happens. I just let my feet do the work. I just LOVE soccer!"