Northwestern State aims for revenge against McNeese in tournament semifinals

CONWAY, Ark.—After the first conference tournament win since 2005, the Northwestern State soccer team looks for revenge in the semifinals against No. 6 McNeese Friday at the Bill Stephens Track and Soccer Complex.

The contest begins at 4 p.m.

With the win Friday, NSU (12-7-1) has won its most games since 2005, the last time the Lady Demons made the NCAA Tournament.

After dropping the first five of the season, the Lady Demons have gone 12-2-1 since, and are currently on a five-match winning streak.

McNeese (11-8) lost five of six to end the regular season, but the Cowgirls avenged its regular season loss to Abilene Christian with a 2-1 comeback victory Wednesday in Conway.

“It’s a good matchup,” co-head coach Jess Jobe said. “It’s two teams from the state of Louisiana, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

NSU is looking to avenge a loss of its own Friday, as it dropped a 2-1 contest to McNeese Sept. 29 on a Havana Johnson goal in the 82nd minute.

In the meeting, defender Natalee Henry scored on a free kick to tie the match in the 74th minute, only to have Johnson score the winner six minutes later.

Jayden Wheeler has been the hottest player of late, having scored three goals in the past four games. The three goals are a career-high for a season for the senior.

“It’s great for Jayden,” Jobe said. “She scored in her final game at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex, so that is an awesome moment for her to have.

“She is on a nice little run, and there have been some big moments at some big times. She is stepping up at a good time. You can see what it means to her and she is fighting with everything she has to keep her senior season alive.”

Her recent string of goals has tied her for third on the team in goals with sophomore Kalee Williams, who also scored in the first round victory over Sam Houston State.

Third team All-Conference forward Jalen Donaldson and freshman Olivia Draguicevich lead the Lady Demons in points with 10. Draguicevich’s five goals are first on the team.

Freshman Olivia Mattsson, who was on the All-Conference second team, leads the Lady Demons in assists with four. She has four points in her last five games, including an assist in Wednesday’s victory against SHSU.

Kayla Bomben and Acelya Aydogmus have split time at goalkeeper this year. Bomben has started 11 games and has a goals against average of 0.99. She also has a save percentage of 79.2.

Aydogmus started against SHSU and collected her fifth shutout of the season. The five shutouts are tied for the fifth most in school history for a single season. For a career, she is top 10 as well, as she is tied for seventh.

Johnson and Anna Watson pace McNeese in goals with six each, and Watson leads the team in points with 15. Four of Johnson’s six goals were in conference play. Brianna Mascia, who had the first Cowgirl goal in the first meeting, was second on the team in points in league play with seven.

Mariah Ruelas had a goal and an assist in the win against Abilene Christian on Wednesday.

At goalkeeper, Gabrielle Christy has been the starter for the past four games. In those contests, she allowed four goals in 325 minutes. Overall, her GAA is 1.26 and she has a team-best save percentage of 78 percent.

Christy replaced Emma Roccaforte, who sustained an injury in the loss to UIW, and couldn’t finish McNeese’s next game against ACU. Roccaforte has not played since.

The winner of this game plays in Sunday’s championship contest against either No. 5 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or top-seeded Lamar.


CUTLINE: Jalen Donaldson is tied for the team lead in points, and she leads the Lady Demons into the semifinal match against McNeese


CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services