Senior Night could not have been more fitting.
Olivia Draguicevich, one of seven seniors being honored as part of a storied senior class, posted a hat trick in the final regular season game of her career, breaking the school record for goals in a career with her 36th.
The record of 35 by Britiany Cargill had been at the top of the list since 2000.
That was until Friday night, as Draguicevich’s three goals not only broke the school record, but led Northwestern State (11-3-3, 8-2-2) to a 3-0 shutout victory against Southeastern Louisiana (7-6-3, 5-4-3) at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex.
“It was great to break the record on Senior Night,” Draguicevich said. “I couldn’t picture a better night to get it. My whole team worked so hard to be able to finish those opportunities and it was just awesome.”
The win was the sixth straight victory for the Lady Demons and they did not lose in the month of October, going 6-0-1.
The game was scoreless until the second half when Draguicevich dented the scoreboard first with a header off a cross from partner-in-crime Gracie Armstrong in the 48th minute for the first of two connections between the two.
“I think when we scored, while they still came out and attacked, it opened things up a bit more since they had to chase the game,” NSU women’s soccer coach Stuart Gore said. “That really helped us and when Olivia got opportunities, she took them.”
It remained 1-0 until the final five minutes of regulation when the senior from Pflugerville, Texas, put the game away. Her final two goals came off corner kicks, as NSU continues to lead the country in corner kicks per game. Going in, Northwestern State averaged 8.88 per contest. That number only went up, as the team registered 15 of them.
The final two taken by NSU both resulted in Draguicevich goals to tie and break the record. The first one was a header, which went over the outstretched arms of Olivia Griffin, off an assist from Armstrong.
The record-breaking goal came off a corner kick from Natalee Henry and Draguicevich put it home to the bottom left of the goal in a crowded box while falling to the ground, which sent off a jubilant celebration by NSU for its new goal queen.
“It was one of those Hollywood script moments,” Gore said.
“The goal that broke the record was probably the ugliest goal she’ll ever score in her life, but she’ll tell you she’ll take it.”
While Draguicevich provided the offense, fellow seniors, defenders Hallie Field and Jayme Haynes and goalkeeper Chloe DeShazer kept the SLU offense at bay.
SLU, which was coming off a five-goal performance in a win over McNeese, was held to just three shots by the stifling NSU defense. Northwestern State allowed more than five shots taken against it just once in the entire 12-game conference slate.
DeShazer pitched her seventh shutout of the season and lowered her goals against average to a microscopic 0.65. The seven shutouts ties her for third in program history for a single season.
“The key factor behind our strong defense has been communication and communicating as a back line,” Haynes said. “It’s not just us in the back line but communicating with everyone in front of us and we were able to just take care of business.”
The contest was scoreless through the first half of play, just like it was through all 90 minutes in the meeting in Hammond.
NSU controlled much of the game, having opportunities to widen the lead or score early to give the home team the quick advantage. Delaney Wells had a shot that curled just wide right in the 12th minute. Draguicevich had a chance in the first half on a header, but it was stopped by Griffin, the reigning SLC goalkeeper of the week, who recorded five saves.
SLU’s best chance came in the first half in the 38th minute on a lead feed to Makenzie Maher, but her shot sailed wide left and the game remained scoreless.
NSU begins the conference tournament on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined. Two matches in the league were postponed until Saturday. As the No. 2 seed, it will face the No. 7 seed in the tournament.
CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services