Natalie Presedo making name for herself in soccer

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTONBaton Rouge High's Natalie Presedo, right kicks the ball away from Parkway's Brooke Stigall in a Division III bidistrict playoff game Thursday at Baton Rouge High.
Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTONBaton Rouge High's Natalie Presedo, right kicks the ball away from Parkway's Brooke Stigall in a Division III bidistrict playoff game Thursday at Baton Rouge High.

What’s in a name?

That depends on what the name is and who carries it.

Natalie Presedo has handled expectations that come with a name that is synonymous with distance running in Baton Rouge. Of course, competing in a different sport helps.

“My dad and mom don’t talk about when they competed,” Presedo said. “The only time it’s mentioned is when somebody else brings it up to them. And when it’s brought up, they don’t say much.

“They don’t have trophies out around our house. I did read an article written about them at my grandparents’ house. That’s about all I know.”

Still, people ask the Baton Rouge High sophomore-to-be why she doesn’t run track or cross country. Presedo likes to run, but only if it involves a soccer ball.

Given the fact that her parents are Pablo and Lisa Presedo, the questions are understandable. Pablo Presedo was a Class 3A cross country champion at Baton Rouge High and went on to compete at LSU, where he met Lisa, who was recruited from Canada to run distances at LSU in the mid-1980s.

The Presedos made their mark in road races, in particular Capital City Press’ Great River Road Run. Lisa Presedo won 12 GRR titles and Pablo Presedo won five. They swept the titles in 2000, the last year the event was held. The duo combined to win 17 of the 44 silver bowls awarded during the 22-year event.

As parents, the Presedos have a supporting role. Their older daughter, Steffi, chose not to pursue athletics in high school and graduated second in her class at St. Michael in May. She’ll enter LSU with plans to enter medical school.

Natalie Presedo played soccer, basketball and ran track as a youngster. She carries a 4.4 grade point average in honors classes and has a 31 score on the ACT. She also was successful on the soccer field, scoring 31 goals and dishing out 12 assists to help the Bulldogs advance to the Division I regional round last spring.

“We’re not helicopter parents,” Pablo Presedo said. “I used to coach Natalie’s teams when she was younger, but now I’m a parent who

Lisa Presedo adds, “I’m an extremely competitive person and very intense. I know (Natalie) doesn’t want to run. My role is to get her to the practices and workouts that she needs to go to.”

On Tuesday, Presedo and University High goalkeeper Elizabeth Bankhead garnered honorable mention status for the Region 3 Olympic Development Pool for players born in 1997. The ODP camp held in Montevallo, Ala., featured competitors from 11 states.

As the school year approaches, Presedo will turn her attention to another Baton Rouge High season. The Bulldogs haven’t won a state title since 1995 when Jenny Streiffer, an alternate on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, led the way.

The 5-foot-4 Presedo reminds BRHS coach Sheila Achee of Streiffer, who went on to star at Notre Dame.

“Of all the players I’ve had since then, Natalie is the one who reminds me the most of Jenny,” Achee said. “And it’s because of her work ethic. She’s got talent and potential, but the thing that sets her apart is the way she works to get better.

“That’s how Jenny was. You were never going to outwork Jenny. Natalie has that quality, too. And she’s part of a group of young players we have that I’m real excited about.”

The youngest Presedo knows that youth will served at BRHS this season. The Bulldogs graduated a number of seniors and have just four seniors returning. She expects a shift from forward to midfield. The return of Kennedy Smith, another talented sophomore-to-be, from a knee injury also will be crucial.

“A lot of us come from a club background, so we had a lot of prior knowledge of the game prior to last year,” Presedo said. “We’re all different as individuals. But it worked out because we all found ways to fit together.

“Kennedy is very fast. I’m more of technical player. Technique is a bigger part of what I do than speed, so we used what we do well to our advantage. We’ll try to do that same thing again this year.”

McKinley, the Division II champion in 2002, was the last Baton Rouge team to win a girls soccer state title.

Runnels coach Marvin Smith is Presedo’s private skills coach. He sees a progression in her development that started when Pablo Presedo insisted that his youngest daughter use both feet equally as a small child.

“Technically, Natalie is very good,” Smith said. “She uses that to gain an advantage on a larger player. She is equally good with either foot, which you don’t always see. The question now is how much faster she can play as goes up against better competition.”

For now, Presedo is glad to be where she is. She likes going to the high school her father attended. Teachers tell her stories about Pablo Presedo’s high school years. Some ask whether she’ll try to run, including BRHS track coach Zachary Winfield.

Lisa Presedo recalls a track meet in which her daughter, then a fifth or sixth-grader, won the 800 meters and 1,600 meters by making tactical moves that were instinct. She wonders what might happen if her daughter ever did decide to run again.

But she notes, “If Natalie wakes up one day and says I’m done with the soccer thing, that will be fine with us. Whatever she wants to do is. It’s about her, not us.”