FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona soccer team's start to the 2011 season isn't what they envisioned, but they look to start fresh beginning with this week's Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament at Lumberjack Stadium. The Lumberjacks welcome in Ball State, Evansville and Lamar for the tournament starting on Friday. NAU will host Ball State at 7 p.m. on Friday and resume play on Sunday at 10 a.m. against Evansville.
"I think mentally we are ready to win," said senior Ethi Ethridge. "We've hit that breaking point where the fury is out. We're going to go all-out because that's the only thing we can do. That's the one thing we can control."
After their fifth and sixth straight losses to open the season last weekend at Missouri and Nebraska, the team got back to fundamentals in preparation for this week's matches.
"The most important thing is not to focus on the win itself, but rather what we need to do in order to win the game," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We have to get back down to basics in terms of us defending and our movement of the ball. We just need to do the little things right all the time and if we can do that, we'll do well."
Ball State comes into Friday's match at 2-3-0 off a split last weekend. The Cardinals defeated in-state rival Indiana State, 2-1 in double overtime, but lost to Xavier 1-0 in its next match. Junior Maggie Brown leads five Cardinal goal scorers this season with two goals, while junior Aubrey Buehler and sophomore Layne Schramm splitting time in goal. Each has appeared in three games allowing five goals, with Buehler holding a slight 11-10 advantage in saves.
"Ball State is going to be very organized and their coach is going to have them motivated," Luciano said. "He's played us here before with his Tennessee-Martin team, so he understands what goes on with the altitude. He's got some good international players with a lot of international experience with their national teams."
The Lumberjacks defeated the Cardinals, 2-1 in a 2006 home match, in its only previous meeting with Ball State.
Senior Sam Monahan and freshman Sarah Tarver lead the Lumberjacks with two goals scored, and junior Laura Johnson has a one goal herself, coming in last weekend's loss to Nebraska. Sophomore Lauren Weaver ranks second in the Big Sky in saves (22) and saves per game (5.50).
The Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament will be the Lumberjacks' second weekend in the newly renovated Lumberjack Stadium. After a pair of losses to open up the stadium two weeks ago, the team is looking forward to a redo.
"We're going to defend this home field," Ethridge said. "We didn't bring the stadium in right, so we get another crack at it. I think we're ready for that."
Lamar and Evansville will play a neutral site game starting at 4 p.m. prior to the NAU-Ball State match on Friday.