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Record Crowd Watches Women’s Soccer Draw with Arizona, 2-2

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A Lumberjack Stadium record crowd of 2,187 saw Sarah Neatherton and Lauren Zallis score late in the first half as Northern Arizona played Arizona to a 2-2 draw. The Lumberjacks moved to 1-1-1 while the Wildcats are now 0-1-1.

The tie was the first positive result for the Lumberjacks in six all-time meetings against Arizona, as the Wildcats were victorious in the previous five. The record crowd of 2,187 fans surpassed the previous attendance record of 2,011 set against Nevada on November 24, 2004.

The scoring got started in the 20th minute, when a foul on NAU junior Kristi Andreassen set up a direct free kick for Arizona from just above the 18-yard box. Wildcat junior Leila Amini took the set piece and drilled it into the Lumberjack wall, but the deflection went directly to senior Jasmine Namdar. The forward corralled the ball and sent it into the bottom left corner of the NAU goal to give Arizona the early lead.

Northern Arizona answered back in the 33rd minute, when a foul inside the Arizona box set up a penalty kick. Senior Sarah Neatherton took the pk, blasting a shot into the bottom left corner to even the score at 1-1.

The Lumberjacks would tack on a goal late in the half to take a 2-1 lead into the break. A deflection along the left side of the field sprung junior Carolyn Savage down the field unopposed. Her cross into the box was deflected and found sophomore Lauren Zallis, who’s initial shot was stopped by Arizona goalkeeper Devon Wharf. Zallis was able to grab the rebound, however, and her second try found its way into the right side of the goal. Zallis’ third goal of the young season enabled the home team to take a lead into halftime.

Several tries on both sides narrowly missed in the second half, but in the 73rd minute Arizona found a way to even the score. A collision led to a lose ball 25 yards away from the Lumberjack goal, and Amini was able to gain control. The junior fired a perfect shot into the right side of the NAU goal, beating the dive of keeper Natasha Slaughter and knotting the score at 2-2.

Both teams had minimal chances through the remainder of regulation and the contest was sent into overtime. Early in the first OT, Northern Arizona sophomore Jenna Samora was just able to stay onside on a long pass, leading to a breakaway. Wharf came out to challenge and Samora chipped a shot over the Wildcat netminder, but the try hit the crossbar and was cleared away by Arizona.

Just a minute later, Zallis took a free kick from 20 yards out that was deflected by the Arizona wall and trickled just wide.

The game pressed on into a second overtime, in which Arizona had the bulk of the scoring chances. The Wildcats would attempt four corner kicks in just a minute and a half midway through the second extra session, but Slaughter and her defenders were up to the task in not allowing a clean look. When a shot by NAU junior Tori Howe sailed wide with 10 seconds remaining, the game ended in a hard-fought 2-2 draw.

“I’m frustrated that we didn’t win the game, because we had opportunities in both halves and both overtimes to get the game, and we didn’t,” said head coach Andre Luciano. “I’m very proud of my team for playing a gritty, hard game against a good Pac-10 opponent.

“This was a great crowd, I hope it continues. I hope the student body continues to support this team because they are great players, student athletes, and representatives for this university. I want to thank all of the students and everyone else for coming out tonight.”

Slaughter made a career-high six saves while Wharf stopped three of five attempts. Samora paced the Lumberjacks with three shots while Amini, sophomore Renae Cuellar and sophomore Amy Steiner each had two attempts for the visitors. The Lumberjacks posted a 6-1 shot advantage in the first half while Arizona reversed the trend with a 7-1 second-half advantage. The match was extremely physical and emotional, with a combined 24 fouls and five yellow cards being issued during the contest.

The Lumberjacks head to Los Angeles tomorrow and will face Loyola Marymount on Sunday at 1 p.m. before returning home for a five-match homestand.

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