Six transfers highlight the eight signees for the Northwestern State soccer team in the second group of recruits, as first-year head coach Ian Brophy aims to round out his first recruiting class.
Coming into the off-season with just a pair of seniors and four juniors, it was important for Brophy to bring in veterans to even out the roster and provide leadership.
In those six transfers, the Lady Demons picked up two each of goalkeepers and midfielders and one defender and a forward.
NSU also added a pair of freshman midfielders to round out the second group of signees.
“I’m really happy with the second half of our recruiting class coming in,” Brophy said. “It’s a good mix of transfers with experience with a few freshmen who will really push and compete right off the bat. It’s a really good combination of youth and experience coming in to help with the culture.”
With only one goalkeeper on the team heading into the offseason, Brophy picked up a pair of transfers, Libe Banuelos and Kennedy Rist.
Banuelos, an in-state transfer from Louisiana Tech, started 13 games in two seasons for the Lady Techsters. In her first season in 2021, stopped 61 shots and posted a .772 save percentage.
Rist is a transfer from UT-Dallas who played in two contests, starting one. As a freshman in 2022, she allowed one goal in 65:04 for a 1.38 goals against average. She stopped six shots, posting a save percentage of 0.857.
“It was definitely a target of our’s to have at least three goalkeepers on the roster,” Brophy said. “It was really important to bring in goalkeepers who have starting experience.
“In Libe’s case, it is big for us to bring in someone who has Division I starting goalkeeper experience. Kennedy will come in and compete as well with her athleticism. It will be a competitive battle at the position in camp.”
To try to maintain the strong defense NSU has been known for recently, NSU brings in Caitlin Le Roux, who comes to Natchitoches from Louisiana Tech, along with Banuelos.
“This goes along with the theme of the defenders we have brought into the program,” Brophy said. “We wanted to bring in defenders who have that transfer-level experience, players who know the level and being on the field during big games.”
In her two seasons with the Lady Techsters, Le Roux appeared in 23 matches, starting seven. She was a part of four shutouts as a freshman and recorded an assist in the win over Abilene Christian as a sophomore.
Forward Isabella Ruggiano comes over from Jacksonville University where she played in 21 matches in two seasons, starting three. She earned the ASUN Player of the Week in a week where she scored goals in back-to-back games against South Carolina State and Charleston Southern.
“Bella is another transfer who has a lot of minutes under her belt,” Brophy said. “She gives us something a little bit different, giving us some speed on the front line, which will really help us, along with her ability to score goals.”
Sabrina Lopez and Gabby Marshall come in as transfer midfielders.
Lopez, a transfer from Lamar, scored a pair of goals in 2022, one each against UL Lafayette and Nicholls, helping lead the Cardinals to the conference regular season and tournament championships.
“Sabrina will be influential for us with her conference experience and having won a conference championship,” Brophy said. “That experience she brings is something we were looking for with transfers.”
Coming over along with Brophy from Mount Olive, Marshall played in all 18 games as a freshman in 2022, starting two, helping lead the Trojans to a Conference of Carolinas regular season championship. In her first season, she tallied one goal and an assist.
“Gabby will be really helpful,” Brophy said. “She understands what I am looking for and what I want to do. Having played for me already, she is familiar with the system and what I expect and what I am trying to get done here.”
The group is rounded out by a pair of freshmen midfielders, Dawson Marrs and Isabella Wood.
Marrs was an all-district performer for Lake Dallas (Texas) High. In her final two seasons in high school, she recorded 19 goals and 11 assists, earning a first and second team all-conference selection. As a freshman, she scored 50 goals combined in JV and varsity, helping lead the varsity team to 15 wins and a district championship.
Wood was an all-conference selection for Sunlake (Florida) High, earning a first team nod as a senior, scoring four goals and dishing out 24 assists. As a junior, she was named to the second team, recording eight goals and 22 assists.
“She is a very good defensive midfielder,” Brophy said. “She will bring in a defensive mind-set to our midfielder group with still a really good ability to help us play out of the back.”
NSU is aiming to make it five consecutive seasons that it has finished in the top two in the conference, a streak that dates back to 2019.