When someone sees Nate Beltran, the Vacaville High junior is often seen with a soccer ball between his feet, or at least with one nearby.
Vacaville head coach Tony Bullard can attest to one thing: this Bulldog’s love for the game has not been tested.
“He’s a winner and he wants to win with his team,” Bullard said. “He loves the game more than anyone I know at this point. As a child, he is there to train and he is there early. There is no lack of training.
Beltran finished a strong week of play in the Monticello Empire League, scoring five goals in both games, including a hat trick against Fairfield on Friday to win the Reporter Athlete of the Week honors.
At the end of his second season, Beltran rose to the rank of the best players in the program. This season, expectations have risen for Beltran to become an even more vital leader, according to Bullard.
“We’ve lost a few key seniors, and some of our juniors are now working seniors, but Nate I expected him to come and do it,” Bullard said. “The boy lives and breathes football, he has come and trained with the best in the area.”
These expectations match the expectations Beltran set for himself, as he found out what he could do best on behalf of the team after the team reached 8-0-2 during the COVID season. shortened in the spring.
“Last year we had a great season and I wanted to keep that pace throughout my junior year,” said Beltran. “Just to keep working on my skills and my movement off the ball. I just want to make sure that this year we have another successful year.
After entering the league with a 3-0-1 record, the Bulldogs won their first league game against Vanden, a 3-1 victory. Early in their game against the Falcons, they knew they were going to face a solid goaltender, Luis Pech of Fairfield. Beltran wanted to take up the challenge.
“When I play against players like that I like it because I know how badly they want it, I want it,” Beltran said. “I know I’m not going to be like ‘Oh, whatever, I know I’m going to pit myself against someone who wants to block me and deny me.’ When I know that, I don’t want to score and put it in the net for my team anymore.
Where Beltran thrives most is when faced with a single opponent between him and his shot, and something that’s a facet of his game he added more hours to. With his first goal he was put in this scenario and was able to capitalize on it.
“When I’m in this role, I already have a sense of what I’m doing before I even do it,” Beltran said. “I also do that in practice, where I get to 1-v-1 and it’s a nice, clean pace.”
Then, put in the same scenario in the game, Beltran scored again when he was tasked with passing just one defender.
“He got it back and he took the 1-v-1 guy and he made it look simple,” Bullard said. “Nate makes it all simple.”
To end his night, Beltran approached the goalkeeper and faced the immense physique of the defenders, fouling near the goal area, leading to a penalty. So Bullard encouraged Beltran to pull off his hat trick with that next move.
“From there it was ‘Nate, go score your third goal and finish it,’” Bullard told Beltran.
Clearly clearing his mind and ready to make a decision without hesitation, Beltran’s game plan for a penalty kick is simple.
“I’m just focusing on getting the ball in the net,” Beltran said. “You just have to switch off and focus on getting that ball in the net. When I line up I always make sure to ride with confidence.
When he kicked the ball into the line of his choice, Pech made a solid save that ricocheted at Beltran. Capitalizing on it, Beltran then kicked the ball back to the back of the net to secure his hat trick. Grateful to play his role as a goalscorer, Beltran also enjoys it when his teammates also score, as three more goals were scored that night by senior Jake Lander, Jose Antonio Reyes and second student Elias Ordonez.
“I’m happy when my teammates score because at the end of the day it’s part of a team, it makes our team better and it wins our team,” Beltran said.
Beltran is excited to face the rest of the MEL with his teammates in the coming weeks in hopes of chasing a league title.
“I’m very excited because I can play against kids that I know and friends that I play with, so playing against people who are in my town is fun,” Beltran said. “A little bit of rivalry is always fun, but I’m delighted to be able to do another season with the team. My team is going to be very strong and we have good chemistry. ”
When Beltran isn’t bringing up orange and black for the Bulldogs, he’s a key member of the Davis Legacy club football team, which plays year-round.