There is also interest in Natchitoches as adults and youth come together to cheer on the United States and to enjoy the rest of the teams competing for soccer’s biggest prize while rekindling the love they have for the sport.
“It’s been great,” said NCHS girls’ soccer coach Rusty Stultz. “Historically, the group stages aren’t as exciting as the later rounds, but the first weekend has been fun.”
Stultz, who led the Lady Chiefs to the regional round of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) playoffs for the second time in school history, has followed soccer for most of his life.
“It stated in middle school when I was watching German League soccer on TBS,” Stultz said. “Now, that I am a coach with my kids and for the school, it’s a little more on the forefront.”
A former Lady Chief has also put the game front and center for the city of Natchitoches by playing in the city for her prep career and playing elsewhere in college.
Stultz’s oldest daughter, Janie, who will be a sophomore at Hendrix College is the second NCHS player to play collegiately when she signed with the school last year.
As a freshman, Janie scored a goal and totaled two assists for the Warriors as she started eight of the 17 matches she played.
“It’s a great feeling to play college soccer,” Janie said. “I started with the Natchitoches Youth Soccer League (NYSL) as a 4-year old and it’s something I have always loved.”
Like her father, Janie has also watched this year’s World Cup intently whether it is while babysitting or with her family.
“All the games have been amazing and entertaining down the stretch, including the USA/Ghana match,” Janie said. “I was really nervous.”
Placed in Group G along with a powerhouse in Germany, a rising power in Ghana and one of the top players in the world---Cristiano Rolando of Portugal---few thought the United States would be able to escape the “Group of Death” and move on to the knockout stage.
All that changed after John Brooks scored the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute to help the U.S. get a much needed win.
“To beat Ghana was what we needed to do for us to have a chance,” Rusty said.
The United States will face Portugal Sunday at 5 p.m. and Germany June 26 at 11 a.m. Both matches will be on ESPN.