Women’s soccer learning to fight for the win in 2012
By Raymond Reid
The NAU women’s soccer team is gearing up for another season.
There are 15 new players on the roster, only eight of them being upperclassmen. Clearly, head coach Andre Luciano will be working with an extremely young team, but a team that benefited greatly this past season from being tested time and time again.
The Lumberjacks kicked off the 2012 season a few hours west of Flagstaff against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on Aug. 16. The Lumberjack women lost to the Rebels 2–0; despite not clinching a first-game win, the team did enjoy the season-starter.
Six of the new players on the roster are from Las Vegas, so the initial game of their college careers was played in front of their families.
“I really wanted to show what I’ve learned here and bring that back home,” freshman goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson said. “I feel myself getting more fit, with hands on the ball … I feel myself getting stronger and faster.”
The six freshmen: Gilbertson, midfielder Alexia Gonzalez, defender Syrina Lopez and forwards Cassidy McLean, Sarah Pate and Haley Windenger all had homecomings for their collegiate debuts.
“They know that we can’t do this without them,” senior defender Georgia Foltz said. “Having them play at home in front of their friends and family was an inspiring, positive thing.”
NAU has a 19-game schedule ahead for the 2012 campaign. Out of conference, some of their notable opponents will be ASU, UA, San Jose State University, University of Oklahoma and Florida Atlantic University.
Other notable home conference games are against Big Sky Conference newcomer Southern Utah, Sacramento State, Portland State, Eastern Washington and Montana. The Lumberjacks will also make a trip to the Bears Den in Greeley, Colo. for a showdown with defending Big Sky Conference champ Northern Colorado.
“We always schedule hard pre-conference to prepare the team for conference play,” Luciano said.
During the 2011 season, the Lumberjacks logged heavy minutes through a year that saw the team set a school record with nine overtime games and eight double-overtime games. The team learned from its close games in both the wins and losses.
“We learned how to fight last season … it’s rubbed off on our freshmen early this year,” Luciano said. “We don’t end anything in a tie in training anymore, there has to be a winner.”
There is a sense of renewed energy around the program after a tumultuous 2011 season. The Jacks have reloaded and have shown promise so far in their preseason action and opening match.
The Lumberjacks open their home schedule this weekend with an all-Arizona clash. The Sun Devils climb up the mountain on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Jacks follow that up with another home game, this time against the Wildcats on Sunday at noon.
“Since I’ve been here, and that’s four years, we’ve never beaten Arizona State at home. This year, that’s going to change,” Foltz said. “This hits home. This is ASU … This game is huge for us and [the freshmen] caught on really quick after the UNLV game.”