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Soccer: Bobcats take on international superstar in matchup against Toledo
Ohio not only welcomes Toledo to Chessa Field, but also a well-known player on the international stage of soccer.
Senior defender Natalia Gaitán was the co-captain of the Colombian national team that qualified for its first FIFA women’s World Cup in 2011. She also started for Colombia’s Olympic team in 2012.
“Playing in the Olympics was amazing for me. Being able to be part of such a big tournament and environment, it was just great to be there and to try to bring what I learned over there here in Toledo,” Gaitán said.
Two of Gaitán’s teammates also played with her on Colombia’s U-20 team. One of them, freshman Angelica Hernandez, plays with her on the back line for the Rockets. Ohio faces off against Toledo, who ranks behind the Bobcats in goals against average, giving up 1.21 goals a game.
Ohio senior midfielder Cat Rogers said Ohio would have to disrupt her early, adding that Gaitán is also a very dangerous player on the offensive side of the ball.
She has put the majority of her shots on goal (6-of-8) and has put three in the net for the Rockets, tying her for the team lead in goals.
“We know we have to bring our best game in order to beat her and get her out of position and I think if we can score an early goal, she’ll be off her game,” Rogers said. “If we can get that discord with them, hopefully it will help us keep penetrating through them.”
Gaitán said the Ohio and Toledo matchup is a big game but would not necessarily classify it as a rivalry.
“I think every game is different,” Gaitán said. “We just need to focus now on what we need to do to win because every win for us is very important, especially for the three games we have left. We just hope every game and practice we get better.”
Ohio coach Stacy Strauss said the team’s focus is to disrupt the defense to create chances for the offense.
“Although she is a great player and leader, I feel that our center backs are as good or better,” Strauss said. “Our focus is on continuing to make improvements in the offensive end that will create difficulty for any opposing defenders.”
Ohio freshman midfielder Lauren Haley said the Bobcats are excited to face a player of her caliber.
“On the back of our shirts we have a quote and it says “Respect all, fear none”, so I think knowing that, it’s cool, but none of us are really going to change how we play. We’re still going to have the same motives.” Haley said.