Marquette star leans on teammates
Soccer ‘family’ helps Kulla deal with loss of childhood home
Marquette soccer senior goalkeeper Natalie Kulla has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Kulla, the 2010 Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, was visiting her family in St. Louis on Easter weekend when her childhood home was destroyed by a tornado on April 22. Kulla’s parents, John and Karen, were attending Good Friday mass, while Natalie celebrated her brother Nathanael’s birthday at the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
While waiting out a weather delay at the ball game, Kulla received a call from her father saying her parents returned from church to find their home demolished by four 100-foot trees that had snapped in half during the tornado and fallen into the house where the family had lived for 12 years. The tornado also completely tore off her brother’s and parents’ bedrooms, and knocked down three other houses in the cul-de-sac. In St. Louis and the surrounding area, at least 2,700 buildings were damaged by the day’s tornadoes.
“It was really emotional knowing that I felt God had saved my family,” Kulla said. “It was a bit eerie knowing that no one was there.”
In the pouring rain, the Kulla family tried to salvage any belongings they could like photos, memorabilia and family heirlooms.
“We were so happy that our family was alive that the things in the house weren’t important to us,” Kulla said.
On Easter Sunday, Kulla took the train back to Milwaukee and returned to school still wearing the clothes she had on at the baseball game.
“It was really hard because I wanted to be there and help them,” Kulla said.
Thankfully, Kulla did have an incredible support group waiting for her back at school.
“[My teammates] were so helpful and so supportive,” Kulla said. “A lot of my teammates’ families sent my parents money and some of the girls sent my parents Marquette gear from the Spirit Shop because they lost all of theirs. It was really nice to have a ‘family’ somewhere else when it was so hard to leave home.”
Kulla’s parents are renting a house as their home is rebuilt, and send their daughter pictures of the construction progress.
Meanwhile, Kulla has gotten back to business on the soccer field, earning shutouts in the No. 12 Golden Eagles’ first two contests to move up to fifth on the NCAA Division I all-time shutouts list with 34. Last year, Marquette advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the second time in school history with Kulla in front of the net.
“I think we have a really bright future this year,” Kulla said. “I know everyone is expecting to do what we did last year, and that’s always hard to do, but it is neat that everyone has that expectation despite losing nine seniors.”