Soccer– Northwestern State aims to rebound at Abilene Christian

Natalee Henry is the reigning SLC Defensive Player of the Week, and leads a defense that has only allowed nine goals in its last nine games CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

The challenging opening schedule of conference play continues for the Northwestern State soccer team, as it travels across the border to Texas to play Abilene Christian Friday at Elmer Gray Stadium.

The contest begins at 7 p.m.

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NSU (5-6 overall, 2-1 Southland) saw its five-match winning streak come to an end in a late loss to McNeese on Sunday, but won its first two conference contests, including a 2-1 double overtime victory against Lamar.

ACU (7-2-1, 3-0) is on a three-match winning streak of its own, and has not lost in since a Sept. 6 3-0 loss at Texas Tech. During the unbeaten streak, the Wildcats tied No. 22 Baylor 1-1 in Abilene. ACU has outscored its opponents in its first three conference contests 13-1.

“We know they’re in good form,” co-head coach Jess Jobe said. “They’ve got a lot of good things going and they’re stringing some wins together and undefeated in conference.

“I think we were beginning to feel pressure because of our winning streak, so having that snapped may not have been the worst thing for us.”

Abilene Christian won 3-0 in the pouring rain last year in Natchitoches, and overall, the Wildcats have won five of the six meetings and all three in Abilene.

Freshman Olivia Draguicevich leads the Lady Demons in both goals and points with four and 10, respectively.

Even though sophomore Natalee Henry is a defender, she is second on the team with two goals, both coming this past weekend, including the game-winner in double overtime against Lamar. Fellow sophomore Jalen Donaldson has one goal on the year and leads the team in both shots (19) and shots on goal (11).

The defense has been the headliner for the Lady Demons. They have allowed nine goals in their last nine games, including three in their first three conference games. The unit has had two members earn Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors in the past three weeks: Henry this past weekend and Hallie Field on Sept. 17.

The unit stood tall and held one of the best offenses in the conference (Lamar) to just one goal on 10 shots after the Cardinals scored 13 goals on 81 shots in their previous three.

“In he upcoming games, we just have to execute,” sophomore defender Kalee Williams said. “We need to get to where we need to be to execute and get to those positions where we need to be.”

At goalkeeper, the Lady Demons have two who have played at least 350 minutes. Sophomore Acelya Aydogmus has played 664 minutes and has had two shutouts this season for NSU, including the conference opener against Stephen F. Austin. Senior Kayla Bomben has one shutout and has playing 352 minutes. She has a 1.28 goals against average and has a save percentage of .706.

ACU brings a potent offense into the contest, and the Wildcats can have any number of players do damage. Nine players have scored goals, and six of them have scored at least three. Christina Arteaga and Natalie Jones lead the way with five goals each. Arteaga has taken 42 shots, 13 more than anyone else on the team.

Two players have played at least 400 minutes at goalkeeper for ACU. Erin Smith started the first six games, but Rachel Johnson has started the last four. In those games, Johnson is 3-0-1 and has allowed just three goals in 425 minutes for a goals against average of 0.64.

NSU wraps up the weekend with a trip to San Antonio to battle Incarnate Word Sunday. The contest begins at 1 p.m.