Soccer enters last stretch of play before possible tournament spot
By Chris Albas-Martin
The Northern Arizona University (NAU) soccer team returns to Flagstaff to entertain the Portland State University (PSU) Vikings on Oct. 5, followed by the Sacramento State University (SSU) Hornets Oct. 7.
The Jacks head into these difficult fixtures on the back of a mixed weekend, where the team lost their first game of the Big Sky Conference (BSC). NAU traveled to Ogden, Utah to play Weber State University and with an outstanding performance by junior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver, who made eleven saves during the match, the Jacks recorded a 1–0 win courtesy of a goal by freshman midfielder Cierra Gamble, to take them to 2–0–0 in conference.
“Lauren had a great game,” said head coach Andre Luciano. “She managed the game very well for us in terms of dealing with crosses and through balls, she had a great presence and was fantastic.”
The Jacks were brought back down to earth two days later when they were beaten 2–1 by the Idaho State University Bengals to end their four match unbeaten streak. The Jacks jumped ahead after redshirt freshman forward Malia Tano scored her second goal of the season when she converted a cross from freshman forward Demi Schmieder. The Bengals would then score two goals in as many minutes to condemn NAU to defeat. Despite the loss, Luciano was quick to pick out the positives from the game.
“The positives were that we continued to fight the battle, all the way until the end,” Luciano said. “We could have scored two or three goals at the end of the match. The key is that we focus and regroup ahead of this weekend.”
The Vikings (5–6–1) have started the conference well and will arrive in Flagstaff full of confidence, as they are on a three game unbeaten streak, having scored nine and given up just one goal during this run. PSU opened up their Big Sky season with a defeat however, having gone down 1-0 to early conference leaders the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The Vikings recovered and two days later, started their run with a 3–1 win against the University of North Dakota. Last weekend, the Vikings returned home and improved their conference record to 3–1–0 after 2–0 and 4–0 wins against The University of Montana Grizzlies and Eastern Washington University Eagles, respectively.
The Jacks’ second opponents of the weekend, the Hornets (4–5–3) have had a respectable start to the conference. Having won their first game against North Dakota, 1–0, the Hornets lost on the road to the Bears, before returning to California last weekend to go unbeaten, following a 1–1 draw with the Eagles and a comfortable 2–0 win against the Grizzlies to bring their conference record to 2–1–1.
This is the penultimate weekend at Lumberjack Stadium in Big Sky play for the Jacks before they head to The University of North Dakota on Oct. 12, and on Oct. 14 they travel to conference leaders Northern Colorado Bears.
“Conference is always brutal, it is always a fight,” said Luciano. “There is lots of parity up and down the conference and I think the most important thing for us is to take it one game at a time and focus on the next match.”