FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With the 2012 season officially under way and the upcoming fall semester just days away, the Northern Arizona soccer team welcomes Arizona State to the Mountain Campus Friday night in front of an anticipated sellout crowd at Lumberjack Stadium. The game, set for a 7 p.m. start, will be a part of Welcome Weekend on campus as students and families arrive on campus in preparation of the new academic year.
"This first game against Arizona State is a huge event for us," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Not only are we hosting an in-state rival, a Pac-12 team in Arizona State, but we're also hoping to establish a tradition with our fans and our incoming students. The more people we can get in the stands and the more support we can get from them, it becomes even more important for our team. In essence the fans become our 12th player and we hope we can 'Pack the Jack' and create the most intimidating atmosphere we possibly can for Arizona State."
Friday night's game will be the Lumberjacks' home opener following a 2-0 loss at UNLV last week in their first game of the season. Although the Lumberjacks fell in defeat, they finished the game on a high note, controlling possession of the ball and matching the Rebels in shot attempts throughout the second half after allowing two first half goals.
"The first half was a learning lesson for us," said junior Alana D'Onofrio on the Lumberjacks Weekly Podcast. "It was our first game and we started a little slow, but we picked it up in the second half. We didn't allow any goals in the second half and we kind of dominated. Hopefully we can keep that going this weekend."
Freshmen Haley Wingender tallied three of the team's five shots in their season opener and narrowly missed netting her first career goal midway through the second half as her shot went wide. Fellow freshmen Natalie Gilbertson earned the start in goal in her first collegiate game and made six saves while holding UNLV to just two goals despite the Rebels owning a 15-5 shot advantage for the game.
Like the Lumberjacks, the Sun Devils enter the weekend in search of their first win of the season. Arizona State dropped both of their games last weekend, 1-0 at Cal State Northridge and 2-0 at San Diego State. Despite the two losses though, the Sun Devils outshot their two opponents by a combined total of 28-23, including a 21-10 advantage against Cal State Northridge. Devin Marshall leads the team with six shots, five of which came against Cal State Northridge, while Chandler Morris made her first two career starts in goal making three saves in the process.
Following the Arizona State game on Friday, the Lumberjacks will then host Arizona on Sunday at 12 p.m. The two home games against their in-state rivals mark a program first, as this is the first time in school history that NAU will have hosted both Arizona State and Arizona in the same season. With two Pac-12, in-state rivals on deck this weekend, the Lumberjacks are hoping for a packed crowd at Lumberjack Stadium.
"We're really pumped," D'Onofrio said. "We've been working for this all week watching a lot of film. It's really cool to be playing them at home, so hopefully we'll have a lot of people out there to support us because we love the fans' support. We get really pumped up when there's a ton of fans especially for a big weekend against in-state rivals. If we can get these two big wins, it's going to be really exciting for us."
The first 1,000 students at the game will receive free pom-poms as well as 2012-13 academic planners.
All NAU students receive free admission to all home Lumberjack events, beginning with Friday's soccer game against Arizona State. For reserved and general admission tickets, click here. For NAU soccer season ticket information and information about the new NAU Sports Pass, click here.