Soccer Season winding down for Jacks, road matches important going into final games
By Chris Albas-Martin
The Northern Arizona University (NAU) soccer team heads on the road for the final time in the Big Sky Conference (BSC) to face the University of North Dakota (UND) on Oct. 12, followed by the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Bears on Oct.14.
The Jacks head into the final two road games on the back of a scoreless weekend, which the Lumberjacks knotted both games 0–0. The Jacks hosted the Portland State University Vikings on Oct. 5 and were helped by junior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver, who made a career-high 12 saves during the game. Two days later, NAU entertained Sacramento State University and once again the team’s star performer was Weaver, who made another 10 saves, which earned her the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week.
Despite making 22 saves over the course of the weekend, Weaver was quick to praise her defense on playing their part.
“It’s nice, but I have to thank my defence as well,” Weaver said. “I could not have done it without them. They play a very big part and if I did not have them in front of me who knows, I’m just there to pick up what they can’t.”
North Dakota (2–9–1) heads into the game on the back of a five-game losing streak in conference, having only scored two goals in the Big Sky and giving away 15. UND is currently second from bottom in the Big Sky standings and they were soundly beaten both times last weekend.
They travelled to face the Eastern Washington University Eagles on Oct. 5 and despite taking the lead with a goal from Taryn MacMillan, they were level again within a minute as Eagle Cassie Black found the net. The Eagles went on to score three more goals in the second half to wrap up a 4–1 win. It was a similar story two days later for North Dakota as they played University of Montana Grizzlies and they were again undone by a second half rally as the Grizzlies condemned UND to a fifth defeat in conference to take their BSC record to 0–5.
The Jacks’ second opponent of the weekend, the Bears (5–5–3), have had a good start to the conference and their good form has earned the team a No. 59 national ranking out of 64. UNC opened its Big Sky season with three straight wins and only dropped their first game last weekend, while on the road against Montana. The Bears were back on the road two days later against the Eagles and they were held to their second consecutive shutout, as they drew 0–0, despite outshooting Eastern Washington 21–14.
With just four games remaining in the conference, points are becoming even more important and with two vital games on the road coming up for the Jacks, Coach Andre Luciano is taking it one game at a time.
“I think if we come out and really focus on the Friday night game against North Dakota, it will put us right in the mix in the top 3,” Luciano said. “Everyone will be at least six games in and that will give us 11 points and the good thing is now that the teams who are ahead of us all have to play each other, so it is important for us to keep up and keep getting the three points.”
This is the penultimate weekend of the regular conference season and the Jacks will return to the Lumberjack Stadium for the final games of the Big Sky as they entertain Eastern Washington University Eagles on Oct.19 then University of Montana Grizzlies on Oct.21.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity that is in front of us,” Luciano said. “We like the fact that we have two away games and we finish up with two home games in conference and that is always a positive; but I like the fact that we control our own destiny right now.”