By Aaron Ferguson, Sports Information Graduate Assistant
NATCHITOCHES – At halftime of Northwestern State’s soccer match against Nicholls on Sunday, associate head coach Melissa Sherwood stood in front of the team and explained the importance of keeping “ice in the head and a fire in the belly.”
With the Lady Demons holding a two-goal lead at halftime, Sherwood knew that Nicholls would come back into the match with a sharpened edge, and that cooler heads needed to prevail on NSU’s part to hold on for the win.
NSU (2-3-2, 2-0 SLC) did just that, earning a dominating 4-0 win against the Colonels (0-5, 0-2 SLC) off the back of a two goal, one assist outing for senior defender Natalee Henry. The last time NSU scored four goals in a victory against a conference opponent was against Southeastern Louisiana during the 2016 season.
Henry found the back of the net for her first goal in the 24th minute off an advance down the left wing by junior forward Olivia Draguicevich. Advancing into the opponent’s penalty box, Draguicevich set up Henry for a goal into the top left of the Nicholls net, advancing the Lady Demons’ lead to 2-0.
Henry’s second goal came in the 70th minute, as she stole possession from an attacker deep in Nicholls’ territory, and took the Colonels’ keeper one-on-one to the right side of the goal. Henry sent it with authority high left, scoring the final goal of the day for NSU.
Henry recognizes that her success Sunday, along with the success of the team as a whole, has been a mounting effort which has culminated in such a successful outing in front of Nicholls’ net.
“I think that we’ve gotten used to our formation and we’ve really started to click,” Henry said. “We’re creating opportunities, finding good passes and were able to execute throughout the game today.”
Head coach Stuart Gore praised Henry’s success on the pitch Sunday and explained how keeping “ice in the head” led to her dominating performance against the Colonels.
“I think Nat is all about confidence,” head coach Stuart Gore said. “When she gets more confident, she improves in every which way and I think it’s big for our team. She took both of her goals really well and stayed calm and collected. She definitely kept a cool head and had a fire in her belly today.”
Junior midfielder Samantha Hanking scored the opening goal of the match in the 17th minute. Following a free kick from Henry, midfielder Delaney Wells took up a header opportunity which found the crossbar. Hanking made good on the rebound, finding the net and earning her first goal of the season. Henry and Wells were both awarded an assist on the goal.
In the 64th minute, Draguicevich scored the third goal, finding the back of the net at high left from outside the box on the left-hand side, earning her second goal in as many matches.
Southland Goalkeeper of the year Acelya Aydogmus logged three saves in the match, her second consecutive shutout victory, and the 18th of her NSU career. She is currently second all-time in this category, trailing former Lady Demon Tiffany Swigler, who set the record in 2002 with 19.
On the day, NSU logged 20 total shots, nine of which were on goal. Nicholls finished with five shots and three on goal, all of which came in the second period.
“I think (this win) is going to give us a lot of momentum,” Henry said. “We’ve gone from having a slow start this year to working our way back, finding an offensive flow and creating more opportunities for ourselves.”
Northwestern State heads to San Antonio on Thursday to face off against Incarnate Word.