NATCHITOCHES — The Northwestern State soccer team found itself in a situation Friday night against Stephen F. Austin that was foreign to it. For the first time this season, NSU trailed in a match.
At that moment, the coaching staff looked at one another and the same sentiment was shared.
“We leaned into each other and said, ‘Well, I guess we get to see how we play from behind,” said co-head coach Jess Jobe.
The answer came swiftly and authoritatively. The Lady Demons had little trouble overcoming the early adversity, earning an equalizer just four minutes later en route to a 3-1 victory at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex.
“SFA is always a huge game for us, and we love the competition,” senior Alexis Weaver said. “We love the pressure, and I think our team handled it so well. We were ready to go today. We were excited to play, excited to play on or home turf, and we really wanted to show why we are in first right now.”
The victory affirmed that first-place standing in the Southland Conference. The victory moves NSU to 7-0-1 overall and 5-0-1 in conference play, while the loss drops SFA to 6-4-2 overall and 4-2-0 in league action.
As mentioned, the Lady Jacks drew first blood Friday. Morgan Wessling found the back of the net in the second minute, which ended NSU’s school-record shutout streak at six games.
Northwestern State’s equalizer, however, didn’t take long to arrive. Sophomore Olivia Draguicevich took a pass from freshman Delaney Wells and scored her third goal of the season in the fifth minute.
“Our team reacted so positively (to being down a goal),” Weaver said. “It was a good opportunity to put that experience under our belt moving on in conference — that we are down a goal early on in a game, and we have to fight back for it.”
NSU sustained that urgency for the final 85 minutes. And the pressure fruited a couple more scores.
Junior Jalen Donaldson entered the game late in the opening half, and it didn’t take her long to net her first goal of the season. She finished off a beautiful combination from fellow juniors Kalee Williams and Norma Trejo in the 32nd minute, which gave NSU a 2-1 advantage that it carried into halftime.
Jobe implored his squad to take command of the moment in the final 45 minutes. That message was received.
Sophomore Samantha Hanking boasted her first goal of the season. Her score came off a deflection from freshman Cianne Talamo in the 55th minute.
The three goals were more than enough for junior goalkeeper Acelya Aydogmus. After allowing the early score, she and the rest of the defense rounded back into the stout from they’ve exemplified all season.
Aydogmus made three saves, two in the second half, which made the three goals stand up. Her impressive shutout streak came to a close at just over 630 minutes, and she started another one keeping the Lady Jacks scoreless for the final 88 minutes Friday.
SFA registered 10 shots in all to NSU’s eight, however, five of NSU’s eight were on frame. Madeline Talbot recorded two saves for the Lady Jacks.
“We knew we were going to get a tough game,” Jobe said. “Not everything goes according to plan. That’s certainly true in this game. It’s a great game, and we talked about the significance of it. Our team did a tremendous job dealing with what the game meant.”
The next game is quite significant, as well, as Northwestern State hits the road next Friday for a game at Lamar. The Cardinals won their game over Nicholls on Friday night 2-0 to move into sole possession of second place in the conference at 5-1-0.