NSU Soccer – Strong first half powers NSU to 4-1 season-opening win against LSU-Alexandria

 NSU true freshman Brittany Caserma hugs senior Cassandra Briscoe after Caserma scored the first goal of the season Friday against LSU-Alexandria in a 4-1 win.

NSU true freshman Brittany Caserma hugs senior Cassandra Briscoe after Caserma scored the first goal of the season Friday against LSU-Alexandria in a 4-1 win.

Two true freshmen found the points column on their first collegiate shot attempts Friday to highlight Northwestern State’s 4-1 season-opening win against LSU-Alexandria in front of a program-record crowd at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex.

All four of NSU’s goals came in the first half for an aggressive Lady Demons (1-0) squad, headlined by a goal and an assist from freshman forward Kayleigh Phillips.

Phillips, a Forney, Texas native who scored 99 high school goals, finished a rebound off sophomore Esdeina Gonzalez’s shot for the Lady Demons’ third goal.  Phillips assisted on NSU’s final goal, and her pass found junior Camila Ardila, who slipped a shot past LSU-A goalkeeper Katie Duffey.

“As a freshman, everyone comes in not knowing what to expect,” Phillips said. “Preseason camp is pretty long, and you just strive to get on the field. Our team being successful is the most important thing, but to get a goal and an assist is a true blessing.

“Esdeina took a shot, the goalie padded it off, and I was there to finish the goal.”

Fellow true freshman Brittany Caserma started the scoring in the match’s second minute by putting away a goal after a lob from sophomore midfielder Shelby Drope, who created multiple first-half opportunities with her passing.

An attacking Lady Demons’ squad added another goal 10 minutes later when sophomore forward Cache’ Haley booted in a rebound for a 2-0 lead.

NSU coach George Van Linder appreciated the team’s first-half intensity, adding that the Lady Demons will need that for both halves with Southeastern Conference matches looming at Texas A&M (Sunday at 6 p.m.) and at LSU (Tuesday at 7 p.m.).

“I was a little surprised at the first half because you might expect our players to be a little hesitant, shy or shocked in the first half, but they seemed really comfortable, “ Van Linder said. “There is so much potential with all of our fans, and we hope the Demons fans got a chance to see that.

“We do have adjustments to make, but I’m really happy with how the young players played.”

NSU rolled to a 4-0 halftime lead, but LSU-A (an NAIA program in its second season) took more possession in the second half and scored the lone goal after the break.

LSU-A’s Linae Harada beat diving sophomore goalkeeper Alex Latham, who played the second half after senior goalkeeper Brooke Bourbonais and NSU’s backline held LSU-A scoreless in the first half.

Between the posts, Bourbonais and Latham have been competing for the starting goalkeeping spot all offseason, and the timeshare will likely continue into nonconference play.

The Lady Demons outshot LSU-A 25-6, with 10 NSU attempts coming on goal. Haley’s two shots on goal led the way with Ardila, senior Cassandra Briscoe, Caserma, Drope and Phillips all hitting the mark.

Between the posts, Bourbonais and Latham have been competing for the starting goalkeeping spot all offseason, and the timeshare will likely continue into nonconference play.

Texas Christian junior transfer Patry Carrion manned the center of NSU’s back line, making an adjustment from her typical midfield position.

“I was feeling great today, and all the team communicated well telling me what to do,”  said Carrion, an accomplished Spanish national player. “I’m learning the style of play.

“Everyone here has been really friendly, so (the transition) hasn’t been hard at all. I’m very thankful for the girls we have here.”

A record crowd of 1, 204, with lively fans for both NSU and LSU-A, broke the Lady Demons’ previous home attendance record of 1,109 that watched the 2014 season-opening win against Louisiana College.

“I’m excited about the fan base here, and we wanted to put on a show for them,” Van Linder said. “We really appreciate them coming out, and it was a great night for that.

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