NATCHITOCHES — When the Northwestern State soccer team takes the field Friday at home against Nicholls at 7 p.m., a new player, of sorts, will make her home debut. It’s not a new NSU player, per say, but the way this individual is performing makes it seem as though that’s the case.
Last season, junior Kalee Williams faced one of the most difficult events an athlete can face. When playing in a Southland Conference tournament semifinal match, Williams tore her ACL, which ended her season.
It was a long road back, and to say Williams has returned to the field with a heightened level of hunger would constitute a large understatement.
“It has definitely been fueling me,” Williams said. “I want to get back there, and show everyone that I’m ready for this. I’m ready for this challenge.”
Williams has netted four goals through the first four games of the season. She scored all of three a season ago.
Williams has changed positions. That shift, combined with and self-proclaimed underwhelming 2019 season, has her playing at an All-Southland level.
“I felt that last season I didn’t get what I wanted to get out of it.” Williams said. “I’m just taking up this new role that they’ve put me in, playing forward, and taking it game by game and doing as best as I can each game.”
Williams netted her fourth score of the season in the Lady Demons’ 2-0 victory at Houston Baptist on Sunday. That weekend was supposed to entail a Friday night match at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but adverse weather in the region postponed the game against the Islanders.
And yet with all the potential distractions swirling around the game against the Huskies, NSU did what its done all season — win.
“I’m really proud of the group as a whole with how they’ve dealt with adversity and situations and circumstances like that,” said co-head coach Jess Jobe. “In some instances, we’ve gotten used to it. It has been one of those years where we are fired up and really excited any time we get to play.”
The 4-0 record NSU boasts currently isn’t one of simplicity. It has won matches in a variety of ways.
There have been 2-1 victories over Conference USA foes, 3-0 shut outs of Sun Belt opponents and 1-0 slugfests against Southland rivals.
“We are really praising our team for being able to face whatever challenge — and no matter what comes our way — being prepared and being able to flex a little bit,” Jobe said. “It’s a great sign. It’s a sign of maturity, even for a young team. It’s a sign of our leadership stepping up, and keeping our group focused, and keeping us heading in the same direction.”
Aside from Williams, sophomore Olivia Draguicevich and freshmen Kyle Nolen and Delaney Wells have also scored this season. Defensively, it has been the Acelya Aydogmus show. The junior goalie has won back-to-back Southland Conference Goaltender of the Week honors.
She has logged three consecutive shutouts, and boasts a GAA of .33. Aydogmus hasn’t surrendered a goal since the first half of the season-opening match at Louisiana Tech, a span of 332 minutes.
Aydogmus made one save to register a shutout against Nicholls last season in what was a 4-0 victory for NSU. The Colonels sit at 0-4 in 2021 and have yet to score a goal this season.
However, that lack of success doesn’t have NSU looking past its Friday night opponent.
“Nicholls is another team that has a target placed right on our backside,” Jobe said. “They want to come in and have an opportunity to change their outlook, change some recent results and get some momentum, so we have to be really aware of those things. We have to take our opportunity to be prepared, and make sure we are putting in the work to put our best foot forward.”
Northwestern State is 25-2-2 all-time against, which is the most victories NSU owns over any one opponent.
Photo Credit: Joshua McDaniel