Women's Soccer Opens Season At Utah State, Southern Utah
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Following a record-setting 2008 season
and an NCAA tournament berth, Northern Arizona returns to the pitch
to begin defense of its Big Sky Championship. The Lumberjacks begin
the season in Utah, facing defending WAC-champion Utah State on
Friday at 3:00 p.m. and Southern Utah on Sunday at noon. NAU plays
three of its first four games on the road before hosting the
Mountain Classic to begin a five-match homestand.
The Lumberjacks return 18 letterwinners and 10 starters from the 2008 squad that set schools records for wins (12) and winning percentage (.614) while also establishing Big Sky records for assists in a game (14) and points (32). NAU did lose Cee Cee Odorfer, the 2008 Big Sky Co-Offensive MVP, who led the team in every offensive category last season, including goals (10), assists (8), points (28), shots (66) and game winning goals (5). She was a three-time All-Big Sky First-Team selection at NAU and set school records for points in a season (28), career assists (18) and game winning goals (13).
Several offensive threats will return in 2009, however, including sophomore Jenna Samora, who tallied seven goals and two assists in 2008 in being named Big Sky Newcomer of the Year. Also returning are senior Sarah Neatherton, who tallied three goals and seven assists in ’08, and junior Brenna Boies, who contributed three goals and four assists last season. In goal, sophomores Tori Rocke (1.33 GAA, .832 save percentage, 7 shutouts in 2008), Natasha Slaughter (3 games, 1 start in 2008), newcomer Kendra Teesdale and senior Penny Short will battle for top duties as the season gets underway.
Scouting The Aggies
Utah State claimed the 2008 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season championship with a 13-8-1 record and a 7-0-0 mark in conference play. Despite the perfect regular season in conference, the Aggies were upset by Fresno State, 2-1, in the WAC Tournament championship game. The Aggies were picked by the WAC coaches to repeat as champions this season, garnering five of nine first place votes to edge Hawaii by a 61-53 margin for the top spot.
The Aggies also had a conference-leading four players selected to the 2009 Preseason All-WAC Team, with senior defender Lindsey Smart, junior forward Lauren Hanson, sophomore forward Shantel Flanary and sophomore midfielder Chandra Salmon receiving the accolades. Hansen led the 2008 squad in goals (9) and points (21) while Smart paced the team with six assists as both were named All-WAC First Team a season ago. Flanary was the 2008 Freshman of the Year in the WAC after scoring five goals and two assists in her first season while Salmon added three goals to lead the Aggies to the regular season conference title. In all, Utah State returns 12 letterwinners and seven starters in 2009.
The Aggies host NAU in their only game this week before travelling to El Paso, Texas for a two-game tournament next weekend. The Lumberjacks are 3-3-0 all time against Utah State, having evened the overall series with a 1-0 overtime win in their last encounter on September 9, 2007 in Flagstaff.
Scouting The Thunderbirds
Southern Utah opens its season on Sunday against Northern Arizona and is looking to improve on a 7-10-0 record in 2008. SUU lost its first five games in 2008 before winning three straight and later posting another three-gaming winning steak. The Lumberjacks beat the Thunderbirds, 1-0, in Flagstaff on September 5 of last season (one of six shutouts endured by Southern Utah in 2008) and own a 6-0-1 all-time record against Southern Utah. Sunday’s battle will be the first meeting between the two teams in Cedar City since 2003.
Sophomore forward Stacey Brinkman returns for her second season after leading the team with five goals and three assists for 13 points in 2008. The Thunderbirds lost their next two leading scorers from last year as well as their top goalkeeper to graduation and have eight freshmen on the 2009 roster. Other top returners include senior defender Jennifer Johnson, who started all 17 games for SUU last season, and junior forward Erin Marble, who netted three goals and recorded seven points in 2008.
Southern Utah was picked to finish sixth in the 10-team Summit League in the 2009 preseason poll, with Oakland taking the top spot. Northern Arizona will face Oakland during the Mountain Classic in Flagstaff on September 4.