FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With the Big Sky season just a week away, the Northern Arizona soccer team returns home for its final non-conference tune-ups this weekend as it will host the Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament Friday and Sunday at Lumberjack Stadium. The Lumberjacks will play Florida Gulf Coast and San Jose State on Friday and Sunday respectively, while UNLV will be the fourth team in the tournament playing in the first games on each day.
The Lumberjacks enter the weekend with a 1-5-1 record after mixed results last weekend on the road. After battling San Francisco to a 1-1 double overtime tie last Friday in a game in which the Lumberjacks found the equalizer just 21 seconds after giving up the Dons' goal, the Lumberjacks struggled in their following game, a 3-0 loss at UC Davis. However, the weekend served as another lesson learned for the young NAU squad as they inch closer to the all-important conference portion of the season.
"It was frustrating because we put our heart and soul and we wanted to come out of (San Francisco) with a win," said senior Georgia Foltz. "We didn't get the result we wanted, but we knew it was there and we laid it on the field. With the young players that we have, Sunday games are hard to get up for because you just laid everything out on Friday. UC Davis was a team we could've beaten and we had them on the ropes early, so that was a lesson for us; we can't expect that Sundays will be like Fridays. We need to recharge, reboot and get our mind ready because if we don't, it's not going to come easy."
Freshman Haley Wingender notched her team-leading second goal of the season in the San Francisco game, totaling a career-high seven shots that night. In all, Wingender posted nine shots last weekend to increase her team-leading total to 17 this season, which ranks fourth in the Big Sky. Foltz picked up the assist on the goal, her first of the season. Freshman Demi Schmieder continues to lead the team in that category with her two assists. Junior Lauren Weaver got the start in goal in both games last weekend and made 14 saves, nine of which came in the first half against UC Davis that was just two off of her career-high for a single game.
The Lumberjacks will open their tournament play this weekend with a tough game against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday. The Eagles bring a five-match unbeaten streak to Flagstaff with a 4-0-1 record in their last five games since their only loss of the season to No. 12 UCF on Aug. 19. Overall the Eagles are 5-1-1 after defeating Tulsa and Saint Louis last weekend and are the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion having reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Shea Rhoney leads FGCU with eight points (three goals and two assists) as a freshman. Her three goals are tied for the team-lead with Shannen Wacker, as the duo is two of six players on the team with multiple goals this season. In goal, Brittany Brown sports a 0.70 goals against average, second-best in the conference, and is the current Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Week.
San Jose State, NAU's opponent on Sunday, is 2-4-1 this season and is coming off losses to Nevada and UC Riverside last weekend. This weekend will be the Spartans' first games outside the state of California this season, having played five of their seven matches at home and road games at California and UC Davis. Mikaella Meibock is off to a fast start to her career as a freshman, leading the team and the WAC with four goals and eight points. Like Florida Gulf Coast, the Spartans also start a freshman in goal in Emily Pryor, who has a 1.63 goals against average entering the week.
"The expectation is to get two wins at home," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We want to put both of our opponents under a tremendous amount of pressure early on and using the facilities and the altitude to our advantage. The team is very disappointed in their results last weekend, so they are a lot more focused on the little things rather than the big picture."
Back at home for the first time since Aug. 26, the Lumberjacks are ready to put last weekend behind them and move forward with the start of a three-game homestand beginning Friday and that will end with next week's conference opener against Southern Utah.
"Coming off last weekend we're angry that we didn't get the wins that we should have," Foltz said. "We know how important Big Sky conference games are, so we if we come into these two games tough and get two W's, we know that the conference needs to be ready for us. This weekend is big for us and the games are going to be exciting."
The Lumberjacks will play Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m on Friday and San Jose State at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The complete tournament schedule is listed below. All games will be played at Lumberjack Stadium.
Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament:
Friday, Sept. 14:
UNLV vs. San Jose State – 4 p.m.
NAU vs. Florida Gulf Coast – 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 16:
UNLV vs. Florida Gulf Coast – 10 a.m.
NAU vs. San Jose State – 1 p.m.