With a week of camp under their belt and preparing for Saturday’s exhibition contest against Little Rock, the depth of the Northwestern State soccer team and the competitiveness have once again been emphasized by the coaches.
“We’re going to have some good depth,” co-head coach Jess Jobe said. “We can only start 11, but we’ll have some players who will be good options to come right in and make a difference off the bench. We’re seeing excitement and competitiveness and a lot of good battles out there. It’s been overwhelmingly positive right now.”
Northwestern State is one of the youngest teams in the country, having only five juniors and seniors combined. Half the team is new and 13 of the 14 newcomers are freshmen, and have battled for spots in the regular rotation, if not be a starter.
Mixing in the new players in addition to the nine returning sophomores will be key. One of those sophomores is forward Jalen Donaldson, and she is the leading returning goal scorer (along with Kylee Dominy and Norma Trejo). She has been impressed with how the freshmen have stepped up as well.
“A lot of freshmen have stepped up and carved a role on the team,” Donaldson said. “I know (freshman forward) Jayme Haynes has been scoring a lot of goals in practice, so she’s been stepping up. (Freshman midfielder) Olivia Mattsson in the middle has created a lot of opportunities for everyone.”
Mattsson is one of those freshman, and as a recruit from Finland, she has been able to find her way early on in the United States. She came in prepared, as she played professionally overseas, and has been a name to watch in camp.
“I think it has been a new experience for sure, and many new things to adjust to, but I think I have come in and been prepared,” Mattsson said.
Jobe is excited for the season and has liked what he has seen so far in camp.
“I am very pleased with what we’re seeing. Jobe said. “I think we’re seeing a group that is more competitive than last year. From top to bottom, I think we do a great job of getting after it every day in practice.
“We’re demanding a lot of them and asking a lot of them, but they’re rising to that challenge on a consistent basis, so we’re very pleased with that. We have a lot of competition at a lot of spots.”
The exhibition is Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex. The regular season gets underway Aug. 22 when the Lady Demons travel to Denton, Texas, to take on North Texas. They return home Sept. 1 following three road matches to begin the season, as NSU takes on Louisiana Tech.
Following the exhibition against Little Rock, there will be a free soccer kid’s clinic. Boys and girls ages 4-12 can learn from the Lady Demons. It will last about 45 minutes, and while the event is free, donations will be accepted.
Admission for all fans is free to the game thanks to the sponsorship of the Louisiana Army National Guard.
Pictured above: Sophomore forward Jalen Donaldson is one of the leading returning point scorers for the Lady Demons, and she leads them into action on Saturday against Little Rock in an exhibition
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services