Northwestern State aims to keep offense rolling in semifinals against Texas A&M-Commerce

While the Northwestern State defense has been lights out for years, the offense has been relentless during the second half of the season. 

After pouring in five goals against McNeese in the Southland Conference Tournament quarterfinals, second-seeded NSU (12-3-3) aims to keep the offensive momentum going in the tournament semifinals against third-seeded Texas A&M-Commerce (8-8-2) on Friday at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex. 

Due to impending weather in Natchitoches, the game was moved up to a 2 p.m. kickoff, immediately following the first semifinals match between top-seeded Lamar and fourth-seeded Houston Christian. 

NSU won both meetings during the regular season, winning 4-1 in Commerce on Sept. 25 and 1-0 in Natchitoches on Oct. 16. In the last meeting, Hallie Field scored in the third minute, which held up. Field also scored in the last game against McNeese. 

The Lady Demons are on a seven-game winning streak and have scored 20 times in those games, out-scoring opponents 20-2. They are coming off a five-goal performance in a shutout victory over McNeese to begin the conference tournament. 

Gracie Armstrong, the SLC Player of the Year, posted five points in the win over McNeese, all of which came in a nine-minute stretch that saw NSU grow the lead from 1-0 to 4-0. The graduate student has scored seven goals and dished out eight assists for 22 points. 

NSU is one of two teams in the SLC (Lamar is the other) to have multiple players have at least 20 points this season, as SLC Forward of the Year Olivia Draguicevich has 28 points, which leads the conference. 

Draguicevich scored her 37th career goal in the victory over McNeese and is the third player in school history to record 80 points, standing now at 81. She is tied for second with Erin Hebert, two points behind Britiany Cargill’s 83 for the most in program history. 

NSU is leading the conference in goals (42), goals per game (2.3) and shots (276). 

As good as the offense has been during the winning streak, the defense has been just good, surrendering just two goals in the seven games. 

The unit will have its hands full against the Lions’ dynamic 1-2 punch of Mya Mitchell and Ashley Campuzano. Mitchell, the SLC Freshman of the Year, scored a goal in the 52nd minute that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the quarterfinals. 

Campuzano, a First Team All-SLC selection, tallied the first goal of the game, which began the scoring before TAMUCC tied the game early in the second half. 

The pairing has combined for 13 goals and 10 assists on the season. Karalie Morrison has registered four points in her last four games, including dishing out an assist in the win over the Islanders on Wednesday. 

Mitchell, the leading scorer in the conference in league games, was held to just one shot in the previous meeting, which came in the final minute of the 1-0 NSU triumph. 

Chloe DeShazer, the second team all-conference selection at goalkeeper for NSU, is tasked with keeping the ball out of the back of NSU’s net. She has posted five of her eight shutouts during the winning streak. Her eight shutouts are the third-most in program history for a single season. 

She has a .61 goals against average and .771 save percentage and has only allowed more than one goal just once this season. 

The back line in front of her has done major damage, only allowing one team to attempt more than five shots against them in the last 14 games. 

However, that one team was Friday’s opponent, TAMUC, which attempted 12 shots in NSU’s 4-1 win over the Lions in Commerce, a game that spanned two days due to lightning. 

The winner will take on the victor of HCU and Lamar in the SLC Tournament title match on Sunday. NSU won the tournament last year with a 1-0 victory over UIW. 

CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services