Soccer Blog: Pair of home matches key in potential tournament berth
By Chris Albas-Martin
The Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks soccer team played their first two games on the road in the Big Sky Conference (BSC) last week, returning to Flagstaff with mixed results.
The Jacks began the weekend on a high note, beating the Weber State University Wildcats 1–0 before they suffered their first defeat of the Big Sky season, losing 2–1 against the Idaho State University Bengals. The Jacks took the lead but were undone by two Idaho goals in as many minutes to take the victory. The Jacks now head back to the Lumberjack Stadium to play two teams who will be battling with NAU for Big Sky championship position.
NAU’s first opponent of the weekend is the Portland State University Vikings (3–1–0 BSC). The Vikings dropped their first game in the Big Sky when they traveled to conference leaders the University of Northern Colorado Bears, 1–0. Portland State has improved their form and are currently on a three-game winning streak, which has taken them to second place in the conference standings. The Jacks have a good, all-time record of 10–4–3 against the Vikings, having not lost to Portland State since 2006. The last meeting between the two teams ended in a tie (1–1) after two overtimes. NAU will enter the game with a psychological advantage, having never lost to Portland State in Lumberjack Stadium.
NAU’s second opponent is Sacramento State (2–1–1), who won its first game of conference against North Dakota and are currently on a two-game unbeaten streak following a draw and a win against the Eastern Washington Eagles and the Montana Grizzlies, respectively. Sacramento State suffered its first at the hands of Northern Colorado, who have set the pace early in the Big Sky, sporting a 3–0 record. The Jacks have a favorable record against the Hornets (9–7–1), but they have not beaten them since October 2010. The last meeting between the two at Lumberjack Stadium ended with Sacramento’s first win in Flagstaff, and last year the game ended in a 1–1 draw after two overtimes to ensure that Sacramento enters the game on the back of a two-game unbeaten run against NAU.
With four of the remaining six games left in conference being at the Skydome, NAU will be looking to remain unbeaten in Flagstaff to ensure a place in the end of season tournament. The two games this weekend will play a big part on whether or not the Jacks will make the final four. If the Jacks can stay unbeaten this weekend, they will have a great chance of qualifying and can enter the final four games of the season full of confidence.