NATCHITOCHES – Change on more than level was a part of the 2020-21 year for the NSU athletic program.
However, one constant that emerged in a year of uncertainty was the performance of Northwestern State student-athletes.
The Demons and Lady Demons saw their share of standout efforts amid the cloud of COVID-19 testing and protocols necessary for a return to competition after the pandemic-shorted 2019-20 athletic calendar.
“While being proud of each and every student-athlete who navigated – academically, competitively and personally — a year that was like no other, I especially applaud several individuals who were not only head and shoulders above peers in the 13-member Southland Conference but excelled on a state and national level, as well,” said Director of Athletics Greg Burke.
Pick a sport and it was likely an NSU competitor made headlines – both on and off the field.
Sprinter Natashia Jackson helped lead the Lady Demon track and field squad to runner-up performances at both the Southland Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships while adding to her record haul of gold medals.
Jackson was named the Southland Conference Women’s Track Student-Athlete of the Year earlier this week, adding to the SLC Outdoor Women’s Track Athlete and Most Outstanding Running Events Performer of the Year honors she collected in May.
Jackson finished her NSU career with 19 career gold medals in conference meets, second all-time in SLC history. Jackson, who graduated in December with a degree in psychology and is pursuing a master’s degree in homeland security, owns the school record in the 400 meters at 52.55 after shaving more than a half second off the mark she already owned.
Jackson’s teammate, 2019 NCAA Indoor long jump national champion Jasmyn Steels, qualified for her third NCAA national meet, earning honorable mention All-America honors in the outdoor long jump before extending a remarkable Northwestern State streak.
Steels, the school record-holder in the long jump (22-0.5), qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in her signature event, keeping alive NSU’s streak of national Olympic Trials competitors that began in 1972.
Jackson was not the only NSU student-athlete to earn conference superlative honors.
Soccer’s Nicole Henry repeated as the Southland Conference Defender of the Year and earned her second straight All-Region accolade, leading a backline that helped the Lady Demon defense rank eighth nationally in goals against average (0.413) and 12th in shutout percentage (0.714).
Standing behind Henry and her fellow defenders was Southland Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Acelya Aydgomus, who ranked eighth nationally in shutouts (eight), ninth in goals against average (0.413) and 13th in save percentage (0.875).
Northwestern State again had its share of All-American honorees, producing them across a number of sports.
Linebacker Jomard Valsin notched second-team All-American honors from the American Football Coaches Association after a six-game spring season that saw him record 54 tackles (8 for loss), three sacks and three forced fumbles.
Punter Scotty Roblow was named to the HERO Sports Freshman All-American team after averaging 41.7 yards per punt, dropping 11 of his 29 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Joining Roblow in the Freshman All-American club was baseball second baseman Daunte Stuart. A second-team All-Southland Conference selection, Stuart led Northwestern State in home runs (7) and RBIs (30), becoming the first Demon position player to be named a freshman All-American.
Softball pitcher/designated player E.C. Delafield earned third-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region honors after helping lead the Lady Demons to the Southland Conference Tournament semifinals.
Volleyball libero Haley Hoang earned statewide notoriety, picking up Libero of the Year honors on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s All-Louisiana Team.
While change was the constant throughout 2020-21, the shifting spectrum brought at least one positive for Northwestern State athletics – with the exception of Jackson and Steels each of the other standouts are eligible to return to Northwestern State for the upcoming 2021-22 athletic year.