By: Northwestern State Athletics
NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State soccer team has had a whirlwind of an offseason, which has included a condensed summer following a spring regular season and arrival of a new coaching staff.
But what hasn’t changed are the players – with 10 of 11 starters returning – and their championship expectations, and they’ll get their first taste of competition Saturday.
With fall camp coming to a close this week, the Lady Demons travel to Little Rock on Saturday for an exhibition match with the Trojans. The match is set to begin at 3 p.m. at the Coleman Sports and Recreation Complex.
“Just the same as Little Rock, we will be looking at ourselves more than we will be looking at them this weekend,” said first year head coach Stuart Gore.
“(We) were a great defensive team last year with little attack. I want us to be more possession and attack oriented,” Gore said. “It’s about working on little combinations and plays and trying to link up with one another. Sometimes it’ll be good, sometimes it’ll be bad, and (us as a team) understanding that it’s a work in progress is important.”
Gore, while operating with just 11 days of camp to prepare for the 2021 season, has expressed the importance of staying patient and learning as a team at an appropriate pace.
“We are trying not to cram as much as possible (while building) new ideas and concepts,” Gore said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, so coming into this weekend there’s going to be a learning curve for us.”
Although coach Gore and associate head coach Melissa Sherwood have had limited time to prepare, the team is completing its fall camp confident and ready to compete for a title.
“I think that fall camp has been really good,” said senior Kalee Williams. “It’s been a lot of getting used to Stu, coach Mel, the freshmen, and all of us coming together.”
“But I think that as a whole, we’ve meshed really well as a team, and we’re not going to skip a beat when it comes to playing.”
Williams, having played a vital role in the team’s six-match win streak to open the 2020 season, explained how the team has spent the week working to develop a more balanced approach and increase their offensive capabilities.
“Even though (Olivia) and I put up numbers early on and finished off strong at the end of the season, we were losing games 1-0 just because we couldn’t score,” Williams said. “And obviously we were a big defensive team with both defender and goalie of the year (on our roster), so we’re fine on defense.”
“This fall camp we’ve focused on working on our attacking and killing opponents with our numbers and strength up top, so when games come along, we’re going to be perfectly fine (on the attack).”
For junior defenseman Hallie Field, the expectations remain high for herself and the defensive unit following a record-breaking season, which included nine recorded shutouts and allowed a program-best six goals all season:
“On the defensive side, I’m definitely expecting a lot of shutouts and a lot of hard work to get behind the ball and kind of keep what we had going last year with a really solid defense,” Field said. “I’m also hoping we can utilize (ourselves) more in the attack so we can get some more goals and help out our offense as much as we can.”
NSU opens its regular season schedule with a four-match road trip starting Oral Roberts on Aug. 19. The Lady Demons’ return to Natchitoches for their home opener on Sept. 1 against Louisiana Tech.