FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona soccer team begins the 2010 season, which includes the defense of its back-to-back Big Sky titles, against in-state rival Arizona State Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. in a matchup of two teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Admission and parking is free with fans encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs for sideline seating due to limited seating capacity caused by the construction at the facility.
"This game is a good way to get a taste of what the season will be for us," said Head Coach Andre Luciano. "There are a lot of factors that go into this game. It is the first game of the year playing against a Pac-10 opponent that played in the NCAA Tournament. It will be a great opportunity to test our abilities against a quality opponent. It is also a rivalry. I have a lot of respect for their coaches and program."
The Lumberjacks opened their season with a 7-1 exhibition victory last Saturday at Embry-Riddle. NAU returns three players that were All-Big Sky first-team selections in 2009: seniors Kristi Andreassen and Brenna Boies and junior Jenna Samora, who combined for 14 goals and 12 assists last season. In goal, the Lumberjacks will again have the services of junior Tori Rocke, who is already third in program history with 203 career saves, and sophomore Natasha Slaughter, who posted a 0.73 goals against average last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
"The game against Embry-Riddle gave us an opportunity to play against another opponent," said Luciano. "I don't think we were particularly sharp but it gave us a chance to establish who our top 18 players were going to be."
Friday's game is the first of nine home games in 2010 to be played at Lumberjack Stadium. The construction of the new stadium is part of the Health and Learning Center project to be finished for the 2011 season.
"I hope fans feel they can be part of something unique to be here when the new stadium was being built," said Luciano. "We have had terrific fan support the last couple of years and I hope the fan base continues coming despite the small challenges."
Arizona State earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament a season ago and faced Wisconsin in the opening round of the College Cup in Madison, Wisc. The game went to penalty kicks tied 1-1 before the Badgers emerged with a 4-3 victory in the shootout. ASU ended the 2009 season at 9-7-4
Arizona State returns its top-three scorers from last season, led by senior midfielder Alexandra Elston who had seven goals and six assists a year ago. Sophomore goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore returns in net after starting 10 games last season. ASU was picked to finish eighth in the preseason Pac-10 coaches poll.
The Lumberjacks dropped a 4-0 decision to the Sun Devils in Tempe last season. NAU is 1-6 all-time against Arizona State with their lone win coming in Tempe in 2001. NAU last hosted ASU in 2008, with the Sun Devils claiming a 4-2 win.