In a game in which eight newcomers started for the Northwestern State soccer team, it was sophomore Jalen Donaldson who shined brightest in a 3-1 exhibition victory Saturday against Little Rock.
It was the only preseason contest for both teams.
“We got a lot of questions answered Saturday,” second-year co-head coach Jess Jobe said. “With a few players, we wanted to see how things would translate into a game setting, and we were very pleased.”
After a scoreless first half where only one shot on goal was attempted, Donaldson broke the tie with a goal in the 51st minute and followed that up with an assist on a goal to freshman Olivia Draguicevich in the 60th minute to put NSU in front by a pair.
“It was the first game back, so I was excited to play,” Donaldson said. “After I scored the goal, it set the tone for everyone and it gave the team confidence.”
On the Donaldson goal, the ball popped out and she booted it past Little Rock’s Hilma Svalander to put NSU on the board first. The assist went to freshman Olivia Mattsson.
Less than 10 minutes later, Donaldson was in the middle of the action again, completing a centering pass to Draguicevich, who sent the ball to the back of the net, past new goalkeeper Julia Curatolo.
For Draguicevich, one of seven freshmen starters for the Lady Demons, it was her first collegiate goal.
“It is very exciting to score my first goal,” Draguicevich said. “Jalen worked so hard to get the ball into me that I felt I needed to capitalize on this.”
In addition to the goal production, the defense was stingy for NSU, as the Lady Demons surrendered just five shots in the game, with only two being on goal.
“When there were periods in the game where Little Rock started to get their rhythm, we did a nice job of staying tough and defending well.”
Sophomore Acelya Aydogmus received the start at goalkeeper and played the first half, not facing a shot on goal. Senior Kayla Bomben played the second half, stopping one of two shots. Her save was made when she came out to challenge a shot 1-on-1, and blocked it, maintaining the breathing room for the Lady Demons.
Little Rock drew to within 2-1 on a Mari Young goal in the 71st minute, but an own goal in the 81st minute shortly after an NSU corner kick rounded out the scoring.
The ball spent much of the day on the Little Rock side of the field, and it showed, as NSU outshot the Trojans 14-5 overall, and 6-2 in shots on goal.
The regular season begins Thursday for the Lady Demons, as they travel to North Texas to take on the Mean Green. That game marks the first of three consecutive road matches to begin the season before coming home for a Sept. 1 date with Louisiana Tech.