Soccer boosts confidence before Big Sky matches
By Raymond Reid and Christopher Albas-Martin
The Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s soccer team ended its final weekend of non-conference play with a home tournament. The Jacks invited multiple teams to participate, but only faced the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles and the Spartans from San Jose State University (SJSU), coming to a tie with the Eagles 1–1 and beating the Spartans 1–0 .
Redshirt freshman forward Malia Tano’s first goal of the season rounded up a positive High Altitude Tournament for the team, as they beat the Spartans (2–6–1) 1–0 on Sept. 16 to record their second shutout of the season and to finish the tournament unbeaten after two games. The result left the team full of confidence going into their Big Sky Conference (BSC) games.
“We played a very good Florida Gulf Coast team on Friday night and we should have won that game,” head coach Andre Luciano said. “For us to come out on a Sunday and put a positive result, it was really important and critical for us going into conference.”
Early in the seventh minute, a solo run by Spartan’s forward Mikaella Meibock ended after she fired over the bar from just inside the penalty area.
The Jacks got back into the game and controlled large parts of the first half, but were forced to shoot from outside of the penalty area. The Jacks had their best chance of scoring during the first half, four minutes before the interval. A clumsy Eagles foul on senior midfielder Laura Johnson led to senior defender Georgia Foltz floating the free kick in to the box, which found Elinor Priest with a free header, but was comfortably saved by the Spartans’ goalkeeper.
SJSU began the second half well, with sophomore Kacey Gricius shooting straight from the kick-off, but it was the Lumberjacks who opened the scoring. Freshman forward Demi Schmieder provided the cross for Tano, who kept her composure to slot the ball past the goalkeeper.
“(The goal) gives me a lot of confidence,” Tano said. “I’m really excited. I really want to get a lot more goals as a forward and just help my team out and get more points.”
The score remained at 1–0 to the Jacks, but they had plenty of opportunities to make the score differential greater, and were nearly made to rue those missed chances as the Spartans had the ball in the back of the net in the 89th minute, before it was correctly ruled out for offside.
The soccer team opened the Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament against FGCU. Despite the Eagles (5–2–2) holding a better record than the Jacks, NAU forced its second double-overtime match of the season, ending the same way as the first one, a 1–1 tie.
“We’re still learning how to win,” said head coach Andre Luciano. “This is a good positive step for us . . . everyone had to step up and play. When you look at our nine games pre-conference, they were all tough games. There weren’t any soft games. We knew with 21 freshmen and sophomores on the roster it would take time for us to click.”
Against Florida Gulf Coast, the Lumberjacks saw a career first from sophomore defender Diane Buzzard, who scored her first goal off a deflection of a shot from sophomore Kelly Whelan in the 20th minute.
The goal tied the game after the Jacks surrendered a goal in the 13th minute off of freshman Shea Rhony. That would be the only goal that junior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver would allow by, stopping four other shots on the goal by FGCU, all of which came in the second half.
Through the whole contest, Lumberjacks outshot the Eagles 17–10 in the game, which lasted 140 minutes.
“The UC Davis loss really was a wake-up call; it motivated us,” Buzzard stated. “Taking this confidence into conference is what we needed. We’re ready for Southern Utah [University] and ready to come out with a win next Friday.”
Redshirt freshman forward Malia Tano’s first goal of the season lifted the Lumberjacks, as they beat San Jose State University Spartans 1-0 this past Sunday to record their second shutout of the season and to finish the tournament unbeaten after 2 games.
The Jacks’ (2–5–2) next game is their first of the Big Sky Conference, when they welcome Southern Utah to the Lumberjack Stadium on Sept. 21.