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November 4, 2010

Soccer to Host Big Sky Championship Looking For Third Straight Title

NAU BIG SKY CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES (PDF)

BIG SKY CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Having won both the 2008 and 2009 Big Sky Championships on the road, Northern Arizona (11-3-3, 6-0-1 BSC) hosts its first Big Sky Championship after claiming its first Big Sky regular season title in program history. The team brings a school-record 11 game unbeaten streak, which is two games shy of the Big Sky record set by Weber State in 1998, into their semifinal matchup on Friday at 2:00 p.m. against Northern Colorado (10-5-3, 3-2-2 BSC). The match will be almost a week to the hour after NAU defeated UNC 1-0 last Friday in Flagstaff to end the regular season.

No. 2 seed Portland State (9-9-1, 5-1-1 BSC) and No. 3 Sacramento State (7-9-1, 4-3-0 BSC) will meet in Friday's first semifinal at 11 a.m., with the semifinal winners to meet Sunday at noon for the Big Sky Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA College Cup. Matchups for the College Cup will be revealed on the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship Selection Show on Monday, November 8, at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time on ESPNU.

The Lumberjacks have not lost since September 12, and during their school-record 11 game unbeaten streak have out-scored their opponents 22-3, including a Big Sky record six game shutout streak. NAU was the only undefeated team in conference play and led the Big Sky in goals, assists, points, goals against average and shutouts in conference games. NAU has won nine straight home conference games dating back to 2008.

After earning its first ever regional ranking on Oct. 12, Northern Arizona remains at No. 10 in the NSCAA/HendrickCars.com Pacific Region Poll.

Big Sky Championship Coverage

Live Stats will be available for all three games of the Big Sky Championship presented by Mortenson Construction on the Big Sky Championship Central page on nauathletics.com. Postgame recaps, boxscores, and video content will also be posted to the Big Sky Championship Central page and the women's soccer schedule page. Sunday's championship match will be video streamed live online and free of charge on bigskytv.org.

Big Sky Championship Tidbits

Both semifinal matchups will be rematches of games played last week to end the regular season. Last Friday, Northern Arizona defeated Northern Colorado in Flagstaff, 1-0, while Portland State defeated Sacramento State, 1-0, in Portland. All three visiting teams for the Big Sky Championship have already played in Flagstaff this season, with all three losing games to the Lumberjacks.

Sacramento State won its only Big Sky Championship in 2007 while Northern Arizona won the title in 2008 and 2009. Portland State and Northern Colorado have never won the Big Sky Championship. The Bears were the runner-up to the Hornets in 2007 while the hornets were the runner-up in '06. NAU has lost in the championship final three times while Portland State was runner-up in 2002. All-time in the Big Sky Championship, NAU is 7-6-1 in eight appearances, SAC is 2-5-2 in seven appearances, PSU is 1-3-1 in five appearances, and UNC went 1-1 in its only previous appearance in 2007.

Northern Arizona and Portland State are the only Big Sky Championship qualifiers that also made the tournament last year. NAU faced PSU in the semifinals of the championship last season in Portland, with the Lumberjacks winning the game in a penalty kick shootout. The teams also met in the 2008 championship semifinals at Weber State, with NAU scoring a 1-0 victory en route to its first Big Sky title. The other two qualifiers from 2009, Eastern Washington and Idaho State, finished 7th and 8th, respectively, in the conference this season.

In the preseason Big Sky coaches' poll, Northern Arizona was correctly predicted to win the conference regular season title. The coaches were also mostly accurate in picking Sacramento State to finish 2nd and Portland State to finish 3rd, with the teams swapping those spots in the actual standings. The biggest surprise was Northern Colorado, as the Bears were picked to finish last in the conference. The fourth team predicted to reach the Big Sky Championship, Weber State, finished in sixth place.

Scouting Northern Colorado

The Bears ended the regular season in fourth place in the Big Sky after falling, 1-0, to Northern Arizona last Friday. Northern Colorado posted conference wins over Idaho State, Portland State and Eastern Washington, tied Montana and Weber State, and lost to Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. UNC did have the best non-conference record in the Big Sky, going 7-3-2 before the start of conference play. The team is making its first trip to the Big Sky Championship since 2007.

Sophomore Danielle Birdsall tied for the Big Sky lead with 19 points and led the team with eight goals for the season. Junior Ariel Cook was not far behind with seven goals and four assists for 18 points. Junior goalkeeper Kirstin Salminen is second in the Big Sky with a 1.02 goals against average to go with a .812 save percentage and four shutouts. The Bears have two graduates of Flagstaff High School on their team in sophomore Laura Vallen, the younger sister of former Lumberjack Sarah Vallen, and sophomore JJ Wykstra.

Northern Arizona is 3-3 all-time against Northern Colorado after their win last Sunday. Last season in Greeley, the Bears scored a 4-0 win over the Lumberjacks in the regular season finale to prevent Northern Arizona from winning the regular season title.

Scouting Portland State

The Vikings ended the regular season by defeating Sacramento State last Friday, 1-0, to clinch the second seed in the Big Sky Championship after winning the conference regular season title last year. Northern Arizona faced the Vikings in Flagstaff on October 17 and recorded a 2-0 victory. In their other Big Sky games, the Vikings defeated Weber State, Idaho State and Eastern Washington and lost to Northern Colorado in double overtime.

Senior Frankie Ross led the team with 14 points during the regular season. Freshman Eryn Brown equaled Ross for team lead in goals with five, while sophomore Amanda Dutra tied Ross for the team lead in assists with four. Senior Rachel Jarvis and sophomore Lainey Hulsizer have split time in goal, with Jarvis starting the regular season finale.

With their win over the Vikings during the regular season, NAU moved to 10-4-2 all-time against Portland State, including eliminating the Vikings in the last-two Big Sky Championships. Portland State has not defeated Northern Arizona since 2006 and has never beaten or tied the Lumberjacks in eight all-time meetings in Flagstaff.

Scouting Sacramento State

The Hornets dropped their regular season finale at Portland State to finish at 4-3 in conference play. In addition to that loss and their 3-2 loss to Northern Arizona on October 15, Sacramento State also lost to Idaho State and picked up conference wins over Northern Colorado, Montana, Eastern Washington and Weber State.

Senior Leah Larot led the Big Sky with nine goals during the regular season and tied for the Big Sky lead with 19 points. Sophomore Jordan Carlberg led the team with four assists. Senior goalkeeper Savannah Abercrombie posted a 1.14 goals against average and six shutouts during the season, making her the Big Sky's all-time career shutouts leader with 22.

Northern Arizona moved to 10-5 against the Hornets all-time with their win last month. Just like Portland State, Sacramento State has lost every game played in seven all-time meetings in Flagstaff .

Rocke on a Roll

After starting NAU's season opener and then recovering from offseason surgery, junior goalkeeper Tori Rocke has returned to the Lumberjack goal and recorded eight shutouts (one shared). Her blank sheet in the Lumberjack's 1-0 win over San Francisco on Oct. 1 was her 14th career solo shutout, surpassing former Lumberjack Liz Winkelblech for the NAU career record. Since returning to the NAU goal in the last ten-plus games, Rocke has made 46 saves while allowing only three goals and increasing her school-record career shutout total to 19. She led the Big Sky in goals against average (0.62), save percentage (.879) and shutouts (8) during the regular season. In conference games, she posted a minuscule 0.44 goals against average and a .925 save percentage with five shutouts, all conference-bests.

In addition to breaking the career shutout record, Rocke is also the all-time leader among NAU goalies in career win percentage (.643), is third in program history in career saves (254), and is fifth in fewest goals against (64). She is three shutouts away from tieing the Big Sky career record of 22.

The Helping Foot

In NAU's 1-0 win over Air Force on Sept. 17, senior midfielder Brenna Boies broke the NAU career assist record with her 19th career assist. Her early helper against the Falcons broke the previous school record of 18 career assists originally set by Cee Cee Odorfer and equaled last year by Sarah Neatherton. Boies tied the school single game record with three assists this season against Cal State Fullerton, had two previous games in her career with two assists, and also led the Big Sky with eight assists in 2009. Boies would add a 20th career assist against Southern Utah the following day, giving her five assists in that four game stretch, and has added two more since.

Fellow upperclassman Sam Monahan has surpassed Boies for the team lead with nine assists in 2010. Monahan had two assists against both Arizona State and Eastern Washington, her second and third-career two assist games, and single helpers in five other contests. She finished with six assists in 2008 and now has 17 career assists, placing her fourth all-time in program history. She is also tied for second in single-season career assists and is three assists away from the school single season record of 12 held by Sierra Cristiano. Monahan led the conference in assists during the regular season while Boies was second.

Awards Galore

Senior Kristi Andreassen was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Most Value Player and junior transfer Chelsea Bednarz earned Newcomer of the Year honors, highlighting 10 Lumberjacks that made the Big Sky Soccer All-Conference Teams, the conference announced this week. The 10 All-Conference selections equal the 2008 squad for the most players to be honored by the Big Sky in a season in program history.

Andreassen was also a unanimous selection for the All-Big Sky first team, the only unanimous selection for the All-Conference teams, and became only the second NAU player to be a three-time first team selection. She was joined on the first team by senior defender Tori Howe, junior midfielder Sam Monahan and junior goalkeeper Tori Rocke. Bednarz was Honorable Mention in addition to being the Newcomer of the Year, while senior midfielders Brenna Boies, Brandy Carr and Corie McGuire, junior forward Jenna Samora, and junior defender Georgia Foltz also received Honorable Mention.

Andreassen and Carr were also selected to the CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-District Women's Soccer Team for district 8 as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Andreassen made the first team for the second-consecutive year, putting her in the running to repeat as an Academic All-American, while Carr was named to the third team.

Also this week, Rocke was named to the national TopDrawerSoccer.com Women's Team of the Week After recording nine saves for her eighth shutout of the season in the Lumberjacks 1-0 win over Northern Colorado last Friday. Rocke's selection to the team was the second national honor earned by the Lumberjacks this season, as Samora was named a primetime performer by CollegeSoccer360.com two weeks ago.

The Lumberjacks have been honored with Big Sky Player of the Week awards seven times this season, including seven straight weeks of earning either the Offensive or Defensive accolade. Andreassen won the defensive award three times, Rocke won it twice, and Samora and Bednarz each won the offensive award once.

Earlier this season, the Lumberjacks had four players named to the All-Tournament team for the USC Trojan Invitational: Boies, Andreassen, Samora and freshman Lauren Weaver. NAU scored a 3-2 win over Cal State Fullerton and dropped a 3-1 decision to USC in the tournament.