Published Wed, Sep 19, 2012 6:46 pm Dateline
Updated Thu, Sep 20, 2012 8:21 am
It has been a two-year process, but Ohio defender Natalie Bechtel has made the difficult transition from offense to defense look incredibly simple.
The junior soccer player began her collegiate career attacking the goal, but was asked to protect her own goalie, Mattie Liston, last season and continues to fulfill that role this year.
So far, she has done a great job.
Through nine games, the Ohio defense has given up nine goals and has limited opponents to only one goal in their five-game winning streak. Liston has been tremendous, but the entire backend of the Bobcats’ formation – Bechtel, Grace Campbell, Paige Howard and Gabby Hausfield – deserves credit.
On the field, Bechtel doesn’t need to be a vocal leader like central defenders, but she has been very helpful to the freshmen adjusting to Coach Stacey Strauss’ system.
“She is definitely a character on the team,” Campbell said. “Defensively, she has helped me out through her communication and constantly giving me direction when we are on the field together.”
As an outside defender, Bechtel is in a position that demands foot skills and speed.
Throughout the game, she is constantly attacked from the outside midfielders and forwards – considerably the two fastest positions on the field. Bechtel is also responsible for crossing the ball and controlling possession sideline-to-sideline.
“This year, I think she has been our most consistent defender at connecting passes and starting our possession out of the back,” Strauss said. “She has created a lot of offensive opportunities with that."
For many, the shift can take several games to adjust, but past experience allowed Bechtel to pick the position up immediately. On her club team, she played four years of defense.
In high school, Bechtel knew how to find the back of the net. She had 48 career goals along with 35 assists. The Second Team All-Ohio selection contributed immediately when she entered the Ohio program.
As a freshman, Bechtel came off the bench as a striker and had five shots on goal, zero of which snuck past the goalie. Nonetheless, Bechtel’s freshman year was a learning experience.
She was taught how to attack in a one-on-one situation. The mental stages an offensive player goes through during this sequence are so complex to ensure defenders are unaware of their next move. When Bechtel switched sides, she suddenly had an advantage other defenders didn’t have; she knew what her opponents were thinking.
“For the past two years, they've been teaching me how to take somebody on and stuff like that, so now I know how to do that,” Bechtel said. “I know how to do the defensive stuff, so I kind of know what each position is thinking.”
Bechtel has all the necessary skills that an outside defender should possess. Her foot skills, speed and understanding of the forward’s mentality make her an essential part of Ohio’s back line; her ability to find teammates in transition leads to great opportunities on offense often. She can make any challenging pass look unbelievably easy.
That’s really her specialty. Making the most difficult situations look simple.