Running to the Rim
Steichen and the DGF Rebels Seek State Trophy
by Jackie Jenson
Photography by J Style Photography
With the 2016-17 school year officially underway, local athletes have recharged their aspirations toward the march for a state tournament appearance. The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton girls basketball team is one squad that was on the doorstep last season, only to be denied in the Class AA, Section 8 finals.
Led by Natalie Steichen, D-G-F is primed to make a deeper playoff run this winter. Though only a junior, the Rebels are in good hands with Steichen, a fierce competitor who brings passion and intensity to the floor.
“I have played basketball since second grade,” relays Steichen. “I absolutely love to compete and win.”
Having also participated in softball and track through the years, Steichen notes basketball has been her go-to sport since elementary school.
“What drew me to this sport [basketball] was the competitiveness that is shown on the court and the ability to play something I love with my friends.”
That said, the goal is to take the skills she has learned over the years and help her team get to state. With a strong bench and reputation for being able to move the ball down the court quickly, Steichen is confident all the pieces are in place to make that state dream a reality this season.
“I think we have a pretty good chance of making it to state this year with a lot of girls returning, and knowing how close we made it last year, just fuels us to get that much farther this year,” explains Steichen.
Speed is a weapon the team collectively uses to overwhelm opponents.
“A huge strength that we have for our team this year is our quickness and ability to run the floor. The quickness turns into great transition offense and defense which really helps the size factor for us,” Steichen expounds.
Getting a jump on her opponents by moving the ball down court rapidly to her teammates is where Steichen excels. This is sure to be a skill she frequently showcases during the 2016-17 season.
“I am always looking for teammates that are up the floor, so I can push the ball in transition,” explains the D-G-F standout. “My speed helps me maneuver through people to get to the rim which helps because of my size.”
Another attribute Steichen says benefits the D-G-F girls basketball team is the fact that the Rebel post players can “play a little post/perimeter,” which gives the team a wealth of agility on offense.
“The main challenge for us this year will be the height disadvantages. Our coaches, however, push us to the best of our abilities in practice, which results in us playing at our highest levels in games,” remarks the junior point guard.
Recently, Steichen committed to play basketball collegiately for Karla Nelson and the Minnesota State University Moorhead Dragons. Having successfully maintained a balance between sports and academics throughout her high school life, she says she is looking forward to expanding her experiences with both at MSUM.
“My goals for college are being able to have an impact on the success of the basketball team while successfully majoring in biology, so I am able to continue my education in the medical field,” relays Steichen.
What helped Steichen hone in on MSUM was the invested, supportive coaches and players she met at the Moorhead campus.
“When I went on my visit, the coaches showed that they cared a lot about their players and the success of the team,” notes Steichen.
There was also an additional draw, as a familiar Rebel face will be along for the ride too.
“My teammate, Alyson Brenna, committed there [MSUM] as well, so I thought it would be fun to play with her again,” explains Steichen. “The location of it [MSUM] is just a bonus because it’s so close to home!”
In the present, Steichen waxes positive on her experience at D-G-F, mentioning it affords her an opportunity to play the sport she loves and grow as both a player and team member.
“The best part about being on the D-G-F basketball team is the relationships built and the memories made,” she says.
Steichen’s journey has met its share of challenges, such as injuries out of her control. In eighth grade she fought through Iliotibial Band Syndrome, a common overuse injury that occurs when the iliotibial band, a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed.
“I noticed that I was injured during a softball tournament,” relays Steichen. “We didn’t go to the orthopedic doctor until the summer going into eighth grade and that’s when I discovered I had IT band syndrome and hamstring tendonitis. I had to do six to eight weeks of physical therapy until I could participate again, which was challenging.”
Getting back to the court again was the goal. Playing varsity basketball and making it to state was an even bigger carrot. Through it all, Steichen’s success is based on her second-nature principles of persistent effort and a will to push through the painful moments.
“Basketball has taught me many lessons, but none greater than how important it is to fight through adversity to achieve success,” she says.
Some simple, yet powerful advice she gives to anyone starting out on a varsity basketball team would be to build relationships with teammates and coaches.
“Always work your hardest, whether it’s in practice or a game. Be an easily coachable player by always listening to the coach, and being a good teammate. Never give up.”