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Swift has Sailors at the top

Newport Harbor having its best season in years with help from senior, who scored game-winning goal against the Oilers.

January 28, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Don Leach / Daily…)

The most obvious individual statistic in soccer is the number of goals scored.

Nine days ago, Newport Harbor High senior midfielder Natalie Swift scored one of the biggest ones of the season for the Sailors' girls' soccer team. She connected in stoppage time off a pass from junior Josie Jogwe, giving Newport Harbor a dramatic 2-1 Sunset League victory and stunning the Oilers on their home field.

Swift said she thinks it's her fourth goal of the season. Coach Larry Draluck isn't a big statistics guy, so he isn't so sure.

"Suffice it to say, she's scored some big goals," Draluck said.

But then there's Swift's passing, like the assist she gave to fellow senior Madeline Storch on Thursday. It was the game-tying goal in what ended up as a 2-1 victory that kept Newport Harbor tied for first place in league.

Then there's her leadership, as a four-year varsity player and one of four senior captains.

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Draluck doesn't need to keep track of her goals to know Swift's value to the Sailors.

"I think a lot of her work gets overlooked," he said. "She does a lot of the dirty work. She's a coach on the field. She accepts tremendous responsibility for herself and the team."

Watch the Sailors play at Davidson Field and see how Swift lives up to her last name from the center midfield spot, how she's always thinking ahead. Her position also means she talks plenty to Draluck on the sidelines, sometimes praise coming from the coach and sometimes constructive criticism.

"That's OK if he's hard on me," Swift said. "He knows I can do it. I think I play better when I have that responsibility."

Swift and Draluck are both in their fourth year at Newport Harbor, and in a sense they've built up the program together. Each year Draluck has played Swift at a different spot, from outside mid as a freshman to outside back as a sophomore to center defender last year.

He's had that luxury with one of the few dedicated club players the Sailors possess. Swift and senior defender Beth Barnard both play with Wolfpack Soccer Club, and they also played together on the Sailors' field hockey team last fall to help anchor a dominant defense.

"People look up to her," Barnard said of her good friend. "She sets an example and I think other people work toward that. I think that pushes the rest of the team."

Swift was a second-team All-Sunset League selection as the "Chix With Stix" won their third straight Los Angeles Field Hockey Assn. Tournament of Champions title. Expect her to be first-team all-league in soccer.

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