Northwestern State drops first game of season in hard-fought contest at SMU

A 12th minute goal from No. 15 SMU’s Sammy Nieves held up, as the Northwestern State women’s soccer team dropped its first game of the season 1-0 on Sunday evening at the Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium.

Nieves received a cross into the box, which overshot multiple players jockeying for position and went to Nieves, who turned and blasted a goal top right shelf past NSU goalkeeper Chloe DeShazer for the first and only goal of the game.

The assists were credited to Mackenzie Rudden and Sophie King, who sent in the cross.

After receiving a goal with 17 seconds left at Arkansas State this past Thursday, NSU (1-1-1) was unable to generate the same magic Sunday evening.

“This is a tough place for any team to come,” NSU women’s soccer head coach Stuart Gore said. “I was proud of our performance tonight. It was a great roster effort. We now have to refocus going into next weekend.”

SMU (2-0-1) controlled much of the game, as a majority of the contest was being played in the Lady Demons defensive end.

It took the Mustangs less than a minute to attempt the game’s first shot, off the foot of Courtney Sebazco, which sailed high. That was a theme for SMU. While the Mustangs attempted 20 shots, the NSU defense limited them to four on goal.

Natalee Henry took the first shot attempt for NSU minutes later, but Samantha Estrada made the save, one of her two on the game.

After attempting 57 shots combined through the first three games (including the exhibition against Little Rock), the stingy SMU defense limited NSU to just four shot attempts.

However, the shots on goal tally was just 4-3 in favor of the homestanding Mustangs.

SMU dominated possession in the first half and had multiple chances. In the 24th minute, King sent in a pass from the left corner to Julissa Cisneros, but her shot went just wide left.

In the 43rd minute, SMU also had a dangerous ball off a corner kick, resulting in two shots, but the NSU defense stood tall and kept the home team off the board.

Northwestern State also had two major chances in the first half in an effort to even the score.

In the 30th minute, NSU’s Emme’ Fernandez and SMU’s Payton Doiron had a race to the ball in the box, but while Fernandez won the race, Doiron made a clean tackle to knock away the ball and turn away NSU.

Two minutes later, Sam Hanking generated the best chance for NSU, as she blasted a shot from outside of the top of the box, aiming for the top left corner of the goal, but a leaping stop from Estrada kept NSU off the scoreboard.

The chances were limited in the second half, but Henry began the half with a shot that sailed wide left. Halee Griffin added a shot in the 53rd minute that was stopped by Tatum Sutherland, who came in at the start of the second half. That was all for shots, though, as NSU was held without a shot for the final 36 minutes of the game by the suffocating SMU defense.

Henry led NSU with two shots, while Eliana Salama attempted seven shots and Jewel Boland attempted five to pace the Mustangs.

NSU finishes its stretch of four consecutive games on the road to open the season at Grambling on Sept. 4 before it heads back to Natchitoches for its home opener against Jackson State on Sept. 9, which begins a three-game home stand.

Photo: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services