Northwestern State wins Southland Conference Tournament, punches ticket to NCAA Tournament

Northwestern

By Aaron Ferguson (Northwestern State Athletics)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tx (Northwestern State Athletics) – On Sunday, the Northwestern State soccer team was crowned champions of the 2021 Southland Conference Tournament – its fourth in program history, and first since 2005.  

After not seeing any play time since Oct. 17, freshman midfielder Faith Adams scored the go-ahead goal in the 61st minute, the first goal of her NSU career. Adams’ game winner sealed a 1-0 victory for the Lady Demons and elevated NSU (12-5-2, 10-2 SLC) over the third-seeded Cardinals (9-10-2, 7-4-1 SLC).  

In the deciding sequence, Southland Conference Player of the Year Olivia Draguicevich pushed up the left wing and sent a cross over UIW keeper Makenzie Hall; Adams hunted down Draguicevich’s pass at Hall’s left and headed it in, scoring the eventual game winner and clinching the title for NSU. 

“I saw the ball come in, and all I could think about was placement and try to not put it in the center of the goal,” Adams said. “I needed to place it on the outside, and that’s exactly what I was able to do. It all happened in slow motion, and all I could see was the ball going into the back of the net. 

“I am so excited right now, I can’t even think straight,” Adams said. If it weren’t for my team and (Olivia), I wouldn’t have been able to make it happen.”  

Southland Head Coach of the Year Stuart Gore handed off the credit for the formation adjustment that put Adams in position to score the game winner. 

“(Associate head coach Melissa Sherwood) said that maybe we switch her and Kyle (Nolen), and Kyle goes and plays up at mid, so I can’t take credit for that, that belongs to Mel.” 

Adams’ goal opened up a pair of chances for the Lady Demons which included a header from senior forward Kalee Williams in the 71st minute which just glanced off the left post, and a point-blank opportunity from Jalen Donaldson which was sent just over the crossbar just a minute later. 

Acelya Aydogmus was named the Southland Tournament MVP following a crucial seven-save day which was capped by a game-sealing save in the 88th minute. Aydogmus ended her tournament run with 12 saves and two clean sheets, pushing the program all-time shutout record to 27 and single season record to 11.  

“I’ve just been locked in all tournament,” Aydogmus said. “I’ve been itching to get out on this field, and I know these girls have as well.” 

“The team and my family instill so much confidence in me, which helps with the nerves,” Aydogmus said. “You may think I don’t get nervous, but I don’t eat or sleep before (matches like this).” 

Gore praised his team’s accomplishments and efforts this season and spoke of what he thought this win meant to some of the veteran members of his squad.  

 “I’m so happy for the team — they’ve worked so hard to get here. And for those of them that played in 2019 and lost in the final, they got a bit of redemption today.” 

Aydogmus mirrored Gore’s sentiments and gave a bow to those who carry influence in her life: 

“It feels great, finally getting to hold onto that trophy,” Aydogmus said. “I’m extremely proud of all of these girls. They all played their part and I’m super excited for all of us – coaches, staff, and my family, whom are all back at home and I miss.”  

The Lady Demons will represent the Southland Conference as its automatic bid into the 2021 NCAA Tournament. On Monday at 3:30 CT, NSU will learn who its first-round opponent will be on the Division I NCAA Women’s Soccer Selection Show, which will be live streamed on ncaa.com.  

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