FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Following a loss to Northern Colorado last week in its Big Sky opener, the Northern Arizona soccer team hosts Idaho State and Weber State in a pair of pivotal conference matches this weekend. The Lumberjacks welcome Idaho State to Lumberjack Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. and then Weber State on Sunday at 12 p.m.
"This weekend is huge because we've only got three home games this conference season," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We need to take care of business on Friday night to put us at 1-1 (conference record), and it could be a situation where a couple of teams drop and we could right in the thick of things. Ideally at the end of the weekend, we'd like to be 2-1 and sit in the top two or three positions."
Last Friday in Greeley, Colo., the Lumberjacks fell to Northern Colorado by a 2-0 decision. The Lumberjacks put up 14 shots, but only three on goal, and could not find the back of the net. Two days later at Air Force, the Lumberjacks once again mustered up 14 shot attempts with five on goal, but narrowly missed netting the game-winner in a 0-0 draw with the Falcons. Senior Jenna Samora had a shot go off the post and freshman Jordan Post had a shot hit the crossbar during the game.
Despite only a 1-8-4 overall record and a 0-1-0 start to the conference season, the Lumberjacks have not been lost on opportunities. NAU ranks third in the Big Sky with 170 shots as a team. Senior Sam Monahan leads three Lumberjacks in the top ten individually at third in the conference with 31 shot attempts. Senior Chelsea Bednarz and Samora sit in a tie for fifth and eighth respectively with 29 and 26 shots.
Sophomore Lauren Weaver has been solid in goal for the Lumberjacks over the last month, lowering her goals against average from 3.74 to her current mark of 1.97, a season-low, in a span of seven games. She currently leads the conference with 5.64 saves per game and is second with 62 total saves.
Idaho State enters Friday's match, 0-7-1 over its last eight matches. The Bengals have not scored more than one goal in any of those eight matches, but presents one of the Big Sky's top strikers this season in freshman Amanda Ellsworth. Ellsworth leads Idaho State with five goals, tying her for second in the conference.
Weber State stands at just 3-8-0 this season, but was one of the four teams to win its conference opener last weekend, defeating Idaho State, 1-0 on the road in Pocatello. The Wildcats have scored a conference-low six goals this season, but has allowed just 11 goals, also lowest in the Big Sky. Sophomore Felicia Sortor has half of Weber State's six goals this season to lead the team and sophomore goalkeeper Ryann Waldman is second in the conference in goals against average and save percentage.
"Since we dropped points on the road last weekend, we have to start winning," Luciano said. "We have to get nine points out of our three home games, so we are solely focused, all-out on looking for a win. Everybody is one win away from being in the mix. Every game and every goal we give up is going to be critical this year."
NAU and Idaho State played to a 0-0 tie in Pocatello, Idaho last season in a game shortened due to darkness. The game was also delayed due to lightning. The Bengals own a slight series 7-6-3 advantage over the Lumberjacks, but NAU is 3-1-1 against Idaho State in Flagstaff.
The Lumberjacks have won the last three meetings over the Wildcats, including a 2-0 victory in Ogden, Utah last season. However, the Lumberjacks are still down in the all-time series at 5-11-1 against Weber State.
Bling Your Bottle Night: As part of NAU's "No Impact Week!" the Office of Sustainability presents Bling Your Bottle Night at Friday's match against Idaho State. Fans are encouraged to bring their reusable water bottle and bling it at the main entrance to Lumberjack Stadium.
Think Pink: Friday night's game will also be the soccer team's Think Pink event in honor of breast cancer awareness. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the game. Also, the first 200 fans to the game will receive an NAU pink water bottle.