Northwestern State drops close game to conclude exhibition season

A goal in the 72nd minute from Penelope Montenegro was the lone tally as the Northwestern State soccer team dropped its final exhibition contest 1-0 to UL Lafayette on Saturday evening at the Lady Demon Soccer Complex. 

NSU opens the regular season Aug. 20 at North Texas. 

Montenegro, who did not play in the first half, came in during the second and was a sparkplug for the Ragin’ Cajuns. 

Natalie Mayes, the goalkeeper for the second half for ULL, launched a pass down the field on a lead feed to Montenergo, who beat NSU’s Libe Banuelos on a clean look from the top of the box to the top right corner for the lone score of the contest. 

“I think we learned a lot from the game,” first-year head coach Ian Brophy said. “We weren’t too concerned with the result, but it was a great learning moment for us. If anything, we really needed a game like that.” 

Despite the goal allowed, Banuelos showed out in the game, stopping three shots in more than 52 minutes of action. 

ULL played lockdown defense in the second half, holding NSU to just two shots, and didn’t allow a shot in the final 26 minutes to salt away its second exhibition victory in the season, also doing so at McNeese. 

The Ragin’ Cajuns out-shot NSU 14-6 overall, including 8-2 in the second half. 

ULL’s Tatum Beck posted three shot attempts to lead the game in that department, two of which were on frame. 

Mariella Stephens for ULL was the only other player with more than one shot attempt, recording two. 

Despite not finding the back of the net, the Lady Demons were not without chances. The best opportunity in the second half came off the foot of Caroline Hilliard in the 58th minute. 

Hilliard picked a ULL player’s pocket and had Taylor Spitzer sprinting down to her right, but the Ragin’ Cajuns flew back defensively, and Hilliard’s shot rolled wide left. 

Shortly after Hilliard nearly put NSU in front, back-to-back shot attempts from Emme’ Fernandez and Mia Dupuis came up empty. 

ULL controlled much of the first half, but a pair of newcomers had two chances late in the first 45 minutes to put NSU in front. In the 43rd minute, Laura Stepniak received a lead feed down the middle of the field, but her shot rolled wide left. 

Less than a minute later, Sabrina Lopez’s shot floated over the crossbar, and the game remained scoreless at halftime. 

Kora Fry, Banuelos’ backup in the game, did her best to keep the Lady Demons in the game late, posted one of her two saves on the game with a deflection in the 89th minute to give NSU a fighting chance to tie the game. 

Following NSU’s trip to North Texas, it travels to Mississippi State on Aug. 24 before coming home for its first regular season home game against Rice. 

“This was the perfect game for us as we move into the regular season,” Brophy said. “We know now exactly what we want to work on moving forward. We’ll give the girls a good day off on Sunday before spending next week preparing for North Texas.  

“We know exactly what we need to work on based on tonight, so the game served its purpose.”