Natalie Goeth, No. 3, high-fives teammates during her freshman season with Eastern Oregon University in 2017. After spending three years at Arizona Christian University, Goeth transferred back to EOU to play her redshirt- senior season with the Mountaineers.

LA GRANDE — Natalie Goeth is back at Eastern Oregon University to finish what she started.

The 2017 honorable mention All-CCC defender left the program after her freshman year, but returns to Eastern to play her redshirt-senior season in La Grande. After spending three seasons at Arizona Christian University and earning her undergraduate degree, Goeth transferred back to Eastern to finish her career as a Mountaineer.

“I’m just looking to bring intensity,” Goeth said. “At practice I’m able to bring competition and hopefully I’ll play during the season and help the team get as far as we can go.”

Goeth rejoins a women’s soccer program at Eastern that is coming off a 3-2 first-round loss in the NAIA tournament. The Mountaineers compiled a 8-2-3 record in an abnormal spring season and qualified for the NAIA tournament for the fourth straight season. In her time away, Goeth still kept up with the successes of her former team.

“Seeing them doing better in recent years, I wanted to be a part of it again and finish where I started,” she said. “Coming back had to do with the environment of the team and the competitiveness of the school and the players.”

Fitting back inHead women’s soccer coach Jacob Plocher is more than pleased to have Goeth back on the roster, noting that it also helps with the transition of this year’s newcomers into the program. Unlike incoming freshmen who take time to acclimate to collegiate athletics, Goeth is expected to fit right in as a veteran presence on the team.

“When she came in freshman year she was a great player for us and started almost every game,” Plocher said. “I never wanted her to leave in the first place.”

According to Plocher, the Eastern coaching staff was excited to build around Goeth back in 2017. She ultimately left in order to be closer to friends and family in the Arizona area. Plocher received a phone call from Goeth about two months ago expressing interest to rejoin the program. After three years away, Goeth is looking to jump right back into a Mountaineers team that is ranked No. 10 in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll.

“I think undoubtedly there’s potential for the team to go back to Alabama this year and I hope we can make it farther than last year,” Goeth said.

Winning atmosphereFor Goeth, the team atmosphere and overall work ethic drew her back to La Grande.

“I really like all the girls and their attitudes toward practice,” she said. “When I go to practice, it’s something that everyone is excited to do. They just bring it, it’s not something that’s a chore.”

Goeth’s experience on the field will help her transition into the team’s rotation according to Plocher. The defender started 11 games for Arizona Christian last season and was nominated as a Golden State Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete.

Due to an injury-caused redshirt season at Arizona Christian in 2018, Goeth still has two years of eligibility remaining. Plocher says the plan is to take it year-by-year, as she studies for her master’s degree of science in education at Eastern.

For the Mountaineers, Goeth brings two important aspects: versatility and experience.

“She’s a versatile player that we can plug in anywhere and she’ll contribute,” Plocher said. “She’s a smart, feisty player with a great work rate who really fits in with players we have in the program.”

After three years away, the return to the La Grande area is a welcome change for Goeth.

“I’m happy to be here and I like having that small-town feel again,” she said. “It’s nice to have that close-knit community and to see a lot of the people again.”

The Mountaineers started their season against No. 3 Spring Arbor in a neutral site game in Prescott, Arizona, on Friday, Aug. 20. Two days later, Eastern will square off against the tournament host, Embry-Riddle. In her return to the Mountaineers, Goeth hopes to start the 2021 season on a good note.

“I’m expecting us to do well,” Goeth said. “I’m hoping that we start the season 2-0 in Arizona.”

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