Junior Natalie Tavana is etching her name into the Seton Hall history books as the women's soccer season unfolds. In the early stages of the season, Tavana wasted no time making her mark, boasting one of the most successful starts in Seton Hall women's soccer history as Big East play continues.
"My sister and brother both started teaching me to play soccer when I was 2 or 3," recounted Tavana, a midfielder from Middletown, Connecticut. Following in her siblings' footsteps, she honed her skills at Oakwood Soccer Club over the years. Along with her soccer family, she grew up watching Barcelona play and even had the opportunity to witness Messi in action for the team. As she grew older, Tavana admired Rose Lavelle on the U.S. Women's Soccer team, particularly because they shared the same position.
Tavana's commitment and talent led her to play alongside girls one or two years older than her. This challenge only fueled her determination to excel as a player. Recognizing the effort required to compete with older peers, she emphasized, "I have to leave it all out on the field in practice or in game."
"It made me the player I am today because I was fighting for a starting position or playing time," she said.
Tavana has had many coaches guide her through her journey. She noted two of the most impactful coaches are her summer league coaches, Matt Cameron and Tiffany Weimer, who have been working with her since high school and continue to do so. They have played a significant role in her soccer development, she said, “they always wanted the best for me and pushed me past my limits.”
When Tavana first visited Seton Hall, she felt at home because she knew one of the coaches, Allison Saucier, from Oakwood Soccer Club. Tavana mentioned that all the girls on the team were nice and welcoming, as this environment pushed her to attend Seton Hall. Even after the coaching change, Tavana stated, “I don’t regret coming here. I love it. I love the environment, and academically, it’s a good school for me, too.” Tavana is currently studying criminal justice with a minor in legal studies in business.
At the start of the season, Tavana aimed to surpass her personal records at Seton Hall, tallying more points and goals than the previous season. Halfway through the season, she has already accomplished this goal. She is now focusing on continuing down this path of success. As for the team, they hope to find success in the Big East tournament this year.
Although Tavana has already surpassed her personal records, she has been climbing the rankings, both at Seton Hall and nationally. Aware of the possibility of breaking Seton Hall records, she said, “I’m going to try my best. I don’t want to think too much about it, though. I just want to go out, have fun, and play my game.”
As of October 16th, Tavana has accumulated 16 career goals, placing her fifth on the all-time list at Seton Hall, and 40 points, positioning her at sixth in program history. Additionally, she has become the third Pirate in Seton Hall women's soccer history to achieve at least 10 goals in a single season, joining Kelly Smith and Courtney Wood. This season, Tavana achieved the first hat-trick of her Seton Hall career and the first time since 2006 a women’s soccer player has scored three times in one game. On the national stage, Tavana is currently tied for 13th place in goals, 17th in goals per game, while ranking within the top 25 players in points.
Tavana's success on the field has been aided by one of her good friends on the team, Sophie Liston, a junior psych major. She has assisted with many of Tavana's goals, and their on-field connection is unmatched.
"She knows what I want, I know what she wants," Tavana said. "We're on the same page."
Another inspiring teammate for Tavana is Maille McDermott, a senior biology major. "She's a very strong player, and she always gives her 100% best effort," she said.
Many athletes have their superstitions and game-day rituals, and Tavana is no exception. Before every game, she tapes her left wrist and writes her father’s name on it. “I feel like every game that I play is for him,” she said.
Whether her father is at the game or cheering from home, she does this as a reminder that he supports her through thick and thin. Tavana also ensures she gets some touches on the ball before warm-up begins, stating that she would be in her head if she did not do this before every game.
Outside of soccer, she can be found spending time with her family and friends, shopping, or at the beach. “Just relaxing; things to get my mind away from soccer and the craziness of life,” Tavana mentioned.
Tavana also maintains a strong academic focus, citing that "[she’s] aiming for a 4.0," expressing her determination after barely missing the mark last semester. This winter, she will begin an internship, working alongside her sister in the HR and management department at Lawrence Air System.
Looking ahead after college, she stated, "My hope is to go professional," either abroad or within the U.S. If a professional soccer career does not pan out, Tavana intends to secure a job right after graduating. Long term, she aspires to work in the sports industry. "I could never let sports go,” she said, “It's a part of me.”
Tavana has been around the sport since she was 2, and she has surely been through it all. When asked about advice she would give to young players she said, “Have fun with it, you should put in your 100% effort because you’ll never know when the last time you’ll play is.”
Beth Berardi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.