Newcomer Tyler Na-Nakornpanom had an electric start to his Occidental soccer career during last Thursday’s game against Bethesda University. The first-year forward contributed two goals, helping the Tigers secure a 3-0 win.
Na-Nakornpanom has been reunited with his high school teammate and mentor, Marcus Chmielewski (junior), which he said has helped in his transition from high school to college soccer. Compared to high school, Na-Nakornpanom said the program sets high, competitive expectations for the players.
“College soccer is much more serious. There are much better players. I think the practices are going well. I think the meal plan is good, and you have to eat way more and way healthier,” Na-Nakornpanom said. “The program is a great program. We have very high standards to be the model program on campus. The vibe is great. Everyone’s welcome.”
Men’s head soccer coach Rod Lafaurie praised Na-Nakornpanom’s performance in last week’s game and said he has high hopes for his contribution to the team.
“Tyler’s so dynamic, he’s good at one v. ones, he’s a good finisher — he’s all the things that you want,” Lafaurie said. “He’s mobile, he’s technical and he’s smart. He puts that together, that combination, that’s usually a pretty good one.”
According to Lafaurie, Na-Nakornpanom‘s extensive experience has helped him contribute immediately.
“He’s played at a high level, coming out of high school and with his academy team. He’s a kid that’s been at the top level,” Lafaurie said. “That’s why he’s been so effective, and he will continue to be effective.”
Lafaurie has created a lasting tradition to celebrate first-year players after they score their first collegiate soccer goal, according to Na-Nakornpanom. In 2014, after a first-year scored his first goal, he gave coach Lafaurie a hug on the sidelines. The same year, the same player proceeded to score 14 more goals. Now, the famous Lafaurie hug is touted as the team’s good luck charm.
After scoring his first goal, Na-Nakornpanom said he ran to the sidelines to continue the tradition.
“I wanted to celebrate, [so] I had to run back to the bench to hug my coach,” Na-Nakornpanom said. “It was a great feeling, and hopefully, it’s a sign of more come.”
Kara Overnell (first year), a forward on the Occidental women’s soccer team, scored the game-winning goal during the Sept. 4 game against McMurry University.
Due to dangerous temperatures during the heat wave, the game was rescheduled several times. Additionally, because of the heat, Overnell said offensive players like herself were told to conserve team energy by better protecting the defensive line.
Overnell scored a header off of a free kick by Madison Delmonte (sophomore).
“I was told to run to the keeper to block her, [so] I ran, and the ball was right there,” Overnell said. “I had a few shots that game that I missed so I was wanting to score. I am shorter so I don’t usually get on people, but it was a header goal. That’s also not something I usually do.”
Overnell said she has enjoyed getting to know her teammates as she works to earn a starting spot on the team. She said her teammate Clare Madden (sophomore) has been a familiar face and supportive mentor for her, stemming from their days together as high school teammates.
Grace Denny, a first-year center back, said Overnell possesses several qualities that make her a great teammate.
“She is a very positive and supportive teammate,” Denny said. “Her intensity raises the level of practice.”
Denny said Overnell’s header was a moment of joy, and that it was the happiest she had been all season.
“When she scored the goal, I was standing right next to her, and she had the biggest smile on her face,” Denny said. “It ended up being the game-winning goal. It was a close and hot game, so [the goal] was a happy moment.”
Likewise, teammate Kylie Jones (first year), said Overnell has been a great teammate.
“She brings a lot of energy to the team, a lot of fight,” Jones said.
As the team heads into their game against Washington State University in St. Louis, the three players said the game will be a welcomed challenge that helps set the tone for the rest of the season. They said their goal is to play as a cohesive unit.
“Whenever I feel like I’m slacking I look over at Kara and she’s always working hard,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of spirit between all the freshman for sure.”