FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Northern Arizona plays its final home games of 2009 this weekend, hosting Montana on Friday at 3 p.m. and Eastern Washington on Sunday at noon. Admission is free for both games with parking available at the NAU bookstore. Sunday’s game will also be senior day, as the Lumberjacks will honor their five seniors prior to kickoff.
Big Sky Breakdown
With three games remaining for all eight Big Sky teams, Northern Arizona currently sits in fifth place, just one point outside the top four. Sunday’s opponent, Eastern Washington, leads the conference with 10 points and a 3-0-1 Big Sky-record, but the Lumberjacks two other remaining opponents, Montana and Northern Colorado, are at the bottom of the Big Sky with a combined 1-6-1 conference record. The top-four teams in the final regular-season standings advance to the Big Sky tournament, to be hosted by the regular-season champion.
The Grizzlies come to Flagstaff with a 3-11-1 overall record and a 1-2-1 mark in conference play. Montana is just 1-7 on the road this season, with their only road win coming on September 4 at Boise State. In conference play, the Grizzlies have defeated Weber State, tied Sacramento State, and lost to Idaho State and Portland State.
Junior Kaitlyn Heinsohn and freshman Frankie Brady both have two goals and two assists to lead the team with six points apiece. Sophomore Brandee Marone has a team-high four assists, as the Grizzlies have scored just 13 goals in 15 games this season. Seniors Grace Harris and Alex Fisher have shared time in goal, with Harris playing the bulk of the minutes and posting a 2.27 goals against average and a .736 save percentage.
Montana has dominated the all-time series with NAU, as the Lumberjacks are just 3-11-1 all-time against the Grizzlies. Northern Arizona has never won in Missoula, but the Lumberjacks have won three of the last five meetings in Flagstaff. Last season, the teams played to a 1-1 tie in Missoula.
Scouting Eastern Washington
The Eagles were just 3-6-1 during the non-conference season, but are thus far undefeated in the Big Sky at 3-0-1 despite only scoring one goal in each conference game. Eastern Washington shut out Weber State, Idaho State and Sacramento State, all 1-0, and tied Portland State, 1-1. The Eagles have not lost since September 18, and have allowed only two goals in their last five games after allowing 12 goals in the three prior games. They will play at Northern Colorado on Friday night before coming to Flagstaff.
Junior forward Brittany Sparks leads the Big Sky with 10 goals and 20 points this season. Sophomore Whitney Brannan has added five goals and three assists, as the pair of forwards have scored 15 of the team’s 22 goals this season. The Eagles have used three goaltenders in 2009, though junior Lisa Dimak has played exclusively in conference games and has a 1.18 goals against average for the season and a 0.24 goals against average in the Big Sky.
The Lumberjacks have won their last four meetings with Eastern Washington and are 7-4-0 in the all-time series. They have not lost a home game to the Eagles since 2002 and posted a 1-0 win last season in Cheney.
Like a Rock
The only player to start every game for NAU this season and the Lumberjacks leader in minutes played, junior Kristi Andreassen has been a model of consistency and durability along the Northern Arizona back line. As a defender, Andreassen is second on the team in shots (32) and, perhaps more impressively, second in shots on goal (14). She is the de-facto taker of free kicks for the Lumberjacks, and has come close to scoring goals from midfield or beyond throughout the season.
At 5-11, she is also NAU’s best weapon on the receiving end of corner kicks, and scored her lone goal this season off a corner. In addition to her strong leg and offensive abilities, she has anchored the Lumberjack defense and has played every minute in 12 of 15 NAU games this season.
The Tempe, Ariz. native was the only Lumberjack to start every game in 2008 as well, becoming only the fourth NAU player to be named to the All-Big Sky First-Team, and appears destined for a second Big Sky First-Team selection and perhaps conference Defender of the Year in 2009. Oh, and she has a perfect 4.00 GPA in her Northern Arizona academic career.
Like a Rocke
Following off-season shoulder surgery, sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke was forced to sit out NAU’s initial three games of the season. Upon her return to the Lumberjack goal, Rocke endured some early struggles, allowing three goals to Loyola Marymount, one goal on just three shots against Oakland, and four goals against Iowa.
Since then, the sophomore from Garden Grove, Calif. has appeared to regain her form from a year ago that led the team to the NCAA Tournament and earned Rocke All-Big Sky Honorable Mention. After sitting out the Lumberjacks game versus Embry-Riddle, Rocke made three saves in a 3-1 win over New Mexico State, four saves in a shutout of Murray State, and seven saves in a 2-1 upset of New Mexico. She did allow four goals in the Lumberjack’s 4-0 loss to Arizona State, but made six outstanding saves while facing 24 shots. She has recorded shutouts in two of the Lumberjacks last three games.
With eight saves last week, Rocke has 182 career stops and is just one save away from third all-time in Lumberjack history. She is also now tied for fourth in program history in shutouts with 10. She led the Big Sky in goals against average (.40), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (4) in conference games last season, and the Lumberjacks will hope for similar numbers for a successful title defense in 2009.
With two assists this season, senior Sarah Neatherton has moved into sole possession of second-place on NAU’s career assists leaderboard with 16 career helpers. She trails all-time leader Cee Cee Odorfer by just two assists.
Meanwhile, junior Brenna Boies’ conference-leading seven assists in 2009 are tied for the fourth-highest singles-season total in Lumberjack history and have given her a career-total of 14 dimes , which puts her fifth on the all-time career list.
In a look at other career records being challenged, Neatherton has moved into fourth-place in career shots (134) and sixth in career points (30). As mentioned before, sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke is fourth in career saves (182) and is tied for fourth in career shutouts (10).
In the Lumberjacks 2-1 win over New Mexico on September 25, sophomore midfielder Lauren Zallis became the latest on a long list of Lumberjacks to sustain season-ending injuries. Zallis joined sophomore goalkeeper Natasha Slaughter as NAU players to sustain season-ending knee injuries during the 2009 season, though the injury bug hit the Lumberjacks before the season even began.
Senior and team-captain Sarah Vallen endured a season-ending knee injury of her own just before the Lumberjacks first game of the season. Also yet to play this season due to injury are senior Kara Vitacca, sophomore Ethi Ethridge, and freshman Jennifer Beaudoin. Now that Big Sky play has begun, Northern Arizona will have to play without its fallen players and hope the current squad can remain intact.
Pack the Jack
The crowd of 2,187 fans in NAU’s game against Arizona established a new program record for attendance at Lumberjack Stadium, surpassing the previous mark of 2,011 set on November 24, 2004 in a game against Nevada. The crowd was just the second over 2,000 and just the fourth all-time attendance figure to reach four digits. In fact, the 2,187 fans was greater than NAU’s total season home attendance in the year 2000, when the Lumberjacks had just five home dates in Lumberjack Stadium.
Four of NAU’s seven-largest attendance figures have been recorded this season in just six home dates. Oddly enough, the nine largest crowds in Lumberjack Stadium history have come in games against non-conference opponents. The players and coaches hope that the great support will continue in the remaining home contests this weekend.
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