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Former Hawk/UNH Standout Helped Coach Field Hockey Team To Championship



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Natalie Shaker picked up with Newtown High School’s field hockey program in a different role, yet right where she left off upon graduating in 2017. Shaker was a member of the team that upset three rivals as the No. 8 seed en route to the program’s last South-West Conference championship (fall of 2016) ... until this year’s squad won it all not as an underdog, but the top seed.

Shaker, the starting goaltender in the 2016 lineup, was in the 2021 team championship photo lineup as an assistant coach.

The former Nighthawk netminder was brought on board by Head Coach Ellen Goyda to help work with the goalies, including varsity starter Cailyn Sullivan and backup Kaelin Rising during a run to the championship that featured a half-dozen regular-season shutouts as Newtown went unbeaten against conference foes.

“I wanted Natalie to come in and really help our goaltenders because they’re such an important part of our success,” said Goyda, adding that Shaker joined forces with volunteer Coach Mary Hess, who concentrates on goalies, to get the most of out Newtown’s last wall of defense in front of the cage.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Shaker, who served as Newtown’s head junior varsity coach as well as assisting with the varsity squad, and takes pride in honing the up and coming players for what she hopes will be strong careers on the varsity team.

“I want to have them be prepared to be the best they can to go win those titles when they reach that level,” Shaker said of her JV coaching role.

“It’s nice giving back. It’s a way to keep field hockey in my life,” said Shaker, who had a strong playing career after high school at the University of New Haven.

Since that 2016 celebration, which was backed by a trio of 1-0 tournament victories thanks in large part to Shaker’s goaltending, she built up quite a field hockey résumé at UNH. Shaker was recruited as the first goalie for the inaugural season of Division II field hockey at UNH.

“Knowing I was helping create the program was really rewarding,” Shaker said. “It was definitely a lot of fun. We were able to compete with really good teams.”

Shaker said the step up from high school to collegiate field hockey was significant, describing each team as being loaded with those one or two top players from every high school team she remembers facing. Despite the high level of competition, Shaker more than held her own at UNH.

She was Team MVP during the program’s first two years, 2017 and 2018, took home a UNH Athlete of the Week Award in 2017, and was the only goalie on the team freshman and junior year, playing all but one half of one game for all three years (her senior season was canceled due to the coronavirus). Shaker led All Division II goalies in 2017 with 18.23 saves per game. The Northeast 10 All Conference Third Team Selection in 2019, Shaker was picked for the National Field Hockey Coaches Association 2020 All-Senior Team.

Off the field, Shaker served as UNH Student Athlete Advisory Committee President in 2019 and 2020, and was Northeast 10 Co-Vice Chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee in 2019. Shaker was the only student-athlete chosen to be on the UNH new Athletic Director Search Committee in 2018.

The 2017 Newtown High grad earned her BA in Forensic Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. Shaker is working as a long-term substitute health teacher at Newtown High School.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Goaltender Natalie Shaker had quite a playing career at the University of New Haven after winning a conference championship with Newtown High her senior year. Shaker returned to Newtown to help coach this past season’s conference champs. —Photo courtesy Clarus Studios
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