The coaches on the sidelines will be different, but there are plenty of familiarities for the Northwestern State soccer team in its 2023 schedule.
With a nine-team Southland Conference, NSU takes on a pair of conference members twice—Houston Christian and McNeese—and the other six conference institutions once in the 10-match league slate.
New coach Ian Brophy starts his career with a challenging non-conference schedule, beginning with a pair of road games against perennial power North Texas (Aug. 20) and Mississippi State (Aug. 24), the latter of which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Having our first two games away against two national powerhouses is challenging to open up the season,” Brophy said. “But it will be a good test to see where we are at early on.”
Prior to the regular season opener, fans can come out to the Lady Demon Soccer Complex when NSU plays an exhibition game against UL Lafayette on Aug. 12.
Rice, playing in its first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference, comes to Natchitoches for the regular season home opener Aug. 27.
That match with Rice is the first of two non-conference home contests, also welcoming Alabama A&M to Natchitoches on Sept. 3.
In between the two home games is a visit to Southern Miss on Aug. 31.
The non-conference slate rounds out with a pair of road games at Jackson Sate (Sept. 8) and one of the most anticipated games on the schedule against LSU (Sept. 10).
“It will be nice to end the non-conference schedule with such a challenging opponent like an LSU right before we begin conference play,” Brophy said. “We always build our non-conference schedule with the conference season always in mind.
“We wanted to be battle-tested and proven going into conference play.”
It is the first time NSU has played LSU since 2015, a 1-1 tie in Baton Rouge.
NSU begins its 10-game conference slate with a pair of home games, hosting Southeastern Louisiana (Sept. 17) and UIW (Sept. 22).
To start the road portion of the conference schedule, the Lady Demons aim for revenge against Texas A&M-Commerce (Sept. 24) after falling to the Lions in the SLC Tournament in 2022.
NSU returns home for the fourth game of the league schedule, welcoming McNeese to the Soccer Complex, the first of two matchups between the rival schools.
“We want to take advantage of having three of our first four at home to begin conference play,” Brophy said. “We will need to capitalize on it to pick up points and start league play off strong because it is important to start the conference season off strong.”
The Lady Demons bounced the Cowgirls from the conference tournament in 2022 with a 5-0 victory, but the teams played to a 1-1 draw during the regular season matchup.
After starting the conference schedule with three home matches in four games, NSU embarks on a stretch of three consecutive road contests. The three matches—at Lamar (Oct. 6), HCU (Oct. 8) and McNeese (Oct. 13)—are the first stretch of three straight road games during conference play since 2018.
NSU has had a rivalry with Lamar, as two of the best teams in the SLC for the past decade. The Lady Demons split with the conference champion Cardinals last season, winning 2-0 in Beaumont, Texas. HCU is the second of the two teams that NSU has an in-season home-and-home with and the trip to Lake Charles completes the home-and-home with the Cowgirls.
The Lady Demons wrap up their home schedule with games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Oct. 15) and the second meeting against HCU (Oct. 22).
A trip to Nicholls on Oct. 27 finishes off the regular season schedule.
After hosting the conference tournament in 2022, the SLC Tournament is in Corpus Christi, Texas, this season, as the Lady Demons aim to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.