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November 6, 2009

Women’s Soccer Back in Big Sky Final After Shootout Win

VIDEO: TEAM PREPARES FOR START OF SEMIFINAL GAME

PORTLAND, Ore. – Sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke made two shootout saves and senior Sarah Neatherton cemented a victory for Northern Arizona as the Lumberjacks got past Portland State, 4-3, in penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in the semifinal round of the Big Sky Soccer Championship in Portland. The Lumberjacks advanced to face Idaho State in Sunday’s championship final, as the Bengals defeated Eastern Washington, 2-1, in the first semifinal on Friday. The title game will be played on Sunday at noon Arizona time at PCC-Rock Creek in Portland.

“Our kids just fight hard,” head coach Andre Luciano said. “Give Laura Schott and Portland State a ton of credit. It was an incredible effort from both teams. We were able to battle through adversity and do what we needed to do.”

“We knew that we wanted our senior leader (Neatherton) to be our final shooter and it worked out well,” added Luciano. “I had a good conversation with Tori this week and I said ‘can you win me a game to put us in the finals?’ and she said ‘Yes, coach, I can.’”

NAU had to play from behind early, as the Vikings jumped to a quick 1-0 lead after the Lumberjacks failed to clear the ball out of their end in the fifth minute. Rapid touches by freshmen Amanda Dutra and Michelle Hlasnik found senior Dolly Enneking alone in front of the Northern Arizona goal, and the Big Sky’s Offensive MVP tallied her conference-leading 12th goal on a shot to the top right corner to give Portland State the lead.

In the 13th minute, NAU got its first offensive rush, as junior Brenna Boies fired just wide right off a cross. Three minutes later, sophomore Jenna Samora found space on top of the box but had her shot stopped by Portland State senior goalkeeper Cris Lewis.

The Lumberjacks would even the score in the 33rd minute. Neatherton corralled a loose ball 30 yards from the Portland State goal and sent a perfect lead pass to Samora, hitting the Lumberjack’s leading scorer in stride for a breakaway. Her shot was deflected by a diving Lewis but bounced off the left post and over the goal line to tie the score at 1-1.

In the 42nd minute, junior Sam Monahan broke free down the right side but her shot slid just past the left post, as the first half ended with a 1-1 tie.

After a mostly stagnant opening 19 minutes of the second half, a chip into the Portland State box by Monahan was headed into the goal mouth by Boies. The ball was loose momentarily for a scramble inside the goal mouth before NAU junior Brandy Carr was called for a foul as the ball was picked up by Lewis.

Junior Katie Tribbey had a volley try miss just high from the right post in the 77th minute, and Portland State had a chance to take the lead in the 82nd minute as a shot from the top of the box by sophomore Amanda Howie was blocked away by NAU junior Kristi Andreassen.

Sophomore Esty Geiger nearly won the game for the Vikings in the 88th minute, as she bended a shot on the Lumberjack goal that deflected off the left post and rolled out of bounds, sending the game to overtime.

In the opening minute of the first overtime, Viking freshman Megan Martin had a run down the right side of the box but had the ball roll ahead of her and into the hands of Rocke. Neither team would have another chance for the remainder of the first extra session.

Just 40 seconds into the second overtime, Martin outran the Lumberjack defense to a loose ball atop the NAU box and had a point-blank shot on the Northern Arizona goal, but Rocke has able to make a two-handed stop to keep the game alive. Two minutes later, Enneking had a break down the left side and fired a shot that just went above the crossbar. Boies had a try in the 106th minute from 10 yards stopped by Lewis, and the game would move to a best-of-five shootout.

Rocke made her first diving save to begin the shootout, robbing Tish Parsons on a lunge to her left, and Tribbey would follow with a tally on the Lumberjack’s first attempt. A goal by the Viking’s Dutra and a miss by Samora evened the score at 1-1 after two rounds. Both teams made their attempts in the third round to bring the score to 2-2.

Hlasnik was called on to open the fourth round for Portland State and took aim at the lower left corner. Rocke guessed correctly and made an initial stop before corralling the rolling ball right on the goal line to prevent the score. Monahan followed with a goal to bring the score to 3-2 after four rounds.

The Viking’s Frankie Ross opened the fifth round with a score, leaving Neatherton to try a potential game winner. The Lumberjack senior connected past a diving Lewis to give Northern Arizona the victory and put the Lumberjacks in Sunday’s championship game.

The game was even throughout, as both teams recorded 14 shots for the game and six shots on goal. Samora led the Lumberjacks with four shots, placing three on goal, while Enneking had four shots for the Vikings. Rocke and Lewis both made five saves, though the Lumberjack keeper added two stops in the shootout.

The win sets up a Sunday title match with Idaho State, which beat Northern Arizona, 4-2, on October 15 in Pocatello. The Bengals jumped to a 3-0 halftime lead before NAU pulled within a goal at 3-2 early in the second half. The Bengals would add a late tally and fend off the Lumberjacks for a 4-2 victory.

Photo Courtesy Soobum Im/Oregonsports.com