RUSTON — For months, the Northwestern State soccer team had to wait. The Lady Demons had to wait for decisions to be made on when and how their season would be played.
Answers filtered in slowly, and the waiting was finally given a terminus, Feb. 3 at the Ruston Sports Complex. That’s 451 days between matches. Needless to say, NSU had to operate in patient and focused manner.
When it came time for the whistle to sound Wednesday, signifying the start of the 2021 spring season, the Lady Demons were finally done waiting. And they wasted little time making a statement.
Northwestern State came out, pressured Louisiana Tech from the outset en route to a 2-1 victory.
“The girls came out ready and brought the energy and intensity,” said co-head coach Jess Jobe. “Tech is a good team. The game was very open for stages of it, and we had to weather some things. But we made it really, really difficult for them, and put them under a lot of pressure. Our girls 100 percent met the challenge.”
Junior Kalee Williams especially met that challenge. She was active in the offensive third for a majority of the game, earning her a game-high three shots.
Williams’ first shot triggered a flurry of three, which included ones from sophomore Rachel Brandt and senior Alexis Weaver. Sophomore Olivia Draguicevich capped that offensive onslaught with a goal in the eighth minute, staking the Lady Demons to the early advantage.
“I think (an early goal) instills a little belief that we are going to find our way into games,” Jobe said. “Tech has some pedigree and quality about them, so when you score a goal early, it instills some belief that the work we’ve been putting in and the preparation we’ve been putting in is going to pay off for us.
“It was momentum for us. It put some wind in our sails.”
Williams put herself on the scoresheet in the 26th minute. She redirected a pass from Draguicevich past Louisiana Tech goaltender Christina Hjelvik, giving NSU a 2-0 edge.
The Lady Techsters cut their deficit in half just over two minutes after Williams’ score. Sophie Fijneman found the back of the net in the 28th minute.
But that was it. The Lady Demons stiffened up and didn’t allow another score.
A portion of that credit goes to junior goaltender Acelya Aydogmus who made three saves. The other portion of that credit goes to the backline of Weaver, juniors Nicole and Natalee Henry and sophomore Hallie Field.
“Acelya had a great game,” Jobe said. “We talked about commanding the space and commanding the players in front of her, and she brought some intensity.
“Some of the players had that realization that we are here in a championship season, and the preparation they’ve done have put them in positions to compete in a game that was open and stretched. Defensively, we hung in there for 90 minutes, and they did a tremendous job.”
Northwestern State finished the game with eight shots, three of which were on target. Louisiana Tech registered seven shots, four of which were on frame.
The Lady Demons are back on the pitch Saturday in Monroe. They’ll battle ULM at 1 p.m. at Brown Stadium.