NAU soccer drops first conference match of the season during road trip
By Raymond Reid
Ushering in the month of October, the NAU women’s soccer team ventured north to Ogden, Utah and Pocatello, Idaho for its first road test of their young Big Sky Conference (BSC) schedule.
Entering the last weekend of September undefeated at 1–0 in the conference, as well as riding a two-game winning streak with zero goals allowed over that span, the Jacks looked to continue to their mission to claim the Big Sky soccer crown.
The Jacks furthered their campaign towards the top of the standings, picking up three points in conference with a 1–0 victory over the Weber State University Wildcats, but falling 2–1 to the Bengals of Idaho State University.
This past season, the Lumberjacks finished with nine points in BSC play and a 2–2–3 record. Through three games this season, the Jacks have amassed six points and have only allowed two goals, both to the Bengals. NAU’s fifth place finish in the 2011 season is where they find themselves currently placed this season, due to two ties in conference play. Tied with NAU is Weber State, right behind Idaho State and Sacramento State, who both have seven points in conference.
“I think in conference everyone knows each other; the element of surprise isn’t there,” said head coach Andre Luciano. “For us, there’s a bit of familiarity with each opponent and every coach knows one another. What’s important is coming out with high energy and focus.”
Sunday afternoon against Idaho State, NAU kept their offensive roll going.
In the 24th minute, redshirt freshman forward Malia Tano notched her second goal of the season, which was also her second goal in the past four games. The goal was assisted by freshman midfielder Demi Schmeider, who has taken on the role of distributor in the NAU offense. After scoring her first career goal against Southern Utah University, Schmeider tallied her fourth assist of the season and is leading the team in that category.
The Jacks conceded two goals in the first half, in the 32nd and 33rd minutes, which would go on to be the deciding goals of the match.
Friday afternoon against the Wildcats, junior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver made the start, notching 11 saves through the contest. With the 11 saves, Weaver matched her career-high saves. The Jacks were outshot 24–8 by the Wildcats, but the only shot that mattered came from the Lumberjacks in the 39th minute by freshman midfielder Cierra Gamble off of an assist by fellow freshman midfielder Nicole Sherwin.
“It felt great to be a part of that, keeping our winning streak going,” Gamble said.
The shutout was Weaver’s second straight solo shutout and the team’s third overall. The streak of 270 scoreless minutes was also the longest such streak for the Lumberjacks in more than two seasons.
“Chemistry, playing with people . . . you learn what their strengths are,” Weaver said. “Being home helps a lot . . . it helps motivate, having two games at home, we push even harder with all of our fans.”
With seven games remaining on the schedule, including six in conference, the Lumberjacks will have five games at home, where they have played opponents tough while allowing eight goals at home (with seven coming from PAC-12 schools ASU and UA). The only home losses this season have been to Arizona State and Arizona.
This upcoming weekend, the Jacks welcome Portland State on Oct. 5 night at 7 p.m. and Sacramento State on Oct. 7 at noon. A solid weekend could vault the Jacks into the top two in the Big Sky standings.
“Our biggest focus has to be Portland State,” Luciano said.