A first half offensive flurry from the Northwestern State women’s soccer team proved to be the difference in a 4-1 victory against Louisiana Tech in the season opener on Sunday afternoon at the Robert Mack Caruthers Field.
NSU (1-0) received goals from freshman Paige Armstrong and veterans Nicole Henry and Olivia Draguicevich in a scoring flurry, which lifted the team to the victory.
“We jumped on them early,” NSU women’s soccer head coach Stuart Gore said. “It was great to see Paige get her first collegiate goal as a freshman. We had a lot of freshmen come out and get good minutes and show great things out there.”
Armstrong began the scoring in the ninth minute, as the Lady Demons dominated possession in the first 25 minutes of the contest. Armstrong scored off a corner kick from fellow newcomer Paula Hernandez.
Natalee Henry wrapped up the scoring with a goal in the 54th minute to put the finishing touches
The corner kick deflected out to Armstrong in the middle of the net, who went top right to tally the first goal of the regular season for NSU.
“It was amazing to get the win and score my first goal,” Armstrong said. “I was very nervous and to score, it felt so good.”
A little more than 11 minutes later, Armstrong was on the giving end of goal for NSU, finding Nicole Henry running free.
The graduate student sent one top left of the goal to double the lead, beating Christina Hjelvik, who had just entered for the Lady Techsters (1-1) for an injured Libe Banuelos.
NSU set the tone for the game early, as Taylor Spitzer received a cross in the opening minute, but her header sailed wide left. Five minutes later, Hernandez hit the crossbar on a free kick from outside the top right of the box.
With the score 1-0, Spitzer once again was in the middle of a scoring chance for NSU, sending one in on goal in the 11th minute, but Banuelos made a diving stop to her left to keep the deficit at one goal.
Spitzer, a freshman from Allen, Texas, finished with a game-high five shot attempts. Armstrong and Draguicevich each attempted three.
For the second consecutive game, the NSU offense peppered the opposing goalkeepers. After 17 shot attempts in the exhibition against Little Rock, the Northwestern State offense attempted 22 more against Louisiana Tech, including nine on frame.
NSU had more shots on frame (9) than Louisiana Tech had shots total (8).
The rain came down midway through the first half and seemed to rally the Lady Techsters. They carried the momentum for much of the final 20 minutes of the half and scored in the 32nd minute off a chance in the middle of the box from Flavie Dube.
She received a pass in the middle of the field at the top of the box and dribbled in and went top right past NSU goalkeeper Chloe DeShazer, who recorded three saves on the afternoon.
The goal rallied the Lady Techsters, as the home team seized control for much of the rest of the half.
But Olivia Draguicevich does what she does: come up with big goals.
Draguicevich scored a big insurance goal in the 40th minute to push the advantage back to a pair. She received a pass from Jalen Donaldson, who saw the reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year running down the flank. Draguicevich and beat Hjelvik in the lower left corner of the goal.
“After getting scored on, teams can find themselves in kind of a lull,” Draguicevich said. “But I think our team did exactly the opposite and we just went forward and got a goal and that just fueled our momentum.
It was the senior’s 27th career goal, which ties her with Julie Zavala for third in program history.
Following the first half fireworks, the offense was tougher to come by in the second half. The lone goal was by Henry, who received a cross from Spitzer on a 2-on-1 against Hjelvik for the easy goal to put the game away.
Each team had chances in the second half, but defensive plays kept the score at 4-1. For the second straight game, freshman Madison Murphy made a great play defensively. Sunday, she stuck her leg out to deflect a pass that would have resulted in a breakaway for the Lady Techsters.
NSU continues its four-game road trip to start the season with a trip to Arkansas State on Thursday at 2 p.m. The team’s first home contest is against Jackson State on Sept. 9, which starts a three-game stretch in Natchitoches.