FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Freshman Demi Schmieder scored her first career goal in the 50th minute to snap a scoreless tie and sent the Northern Arizona soccer team to a critical 1-0 victory in its conference opener over Southern Utah in front of 897 fans at Lumberjack Stadium Friday night. The win was the Lumberjacks' second consecutive 1-0 shutout victory and third overall shutout this season as NAU finished its three-game homestand with an unbeaten 2-0-1 mark dating back to last weekend.
"In conference, typically the team that wins is the team that does the most at home so you have to take advantage of home conference games," said head coach Andre Luciano. "For us to come out against a much-improved Southern Utah team from the past and get a 1-0 win is great. Our team is growing up and you can start to see little things develop."
Although the two teams entered halftime locked in a scoreless game, the Lumberjacks were denied of two first half goals by a pair of spectacular diving saves by Southern Utah's goalkeeper Charly Booth. In the 18th minute, Booth stopped freshman Haley Wingender's shot from just outside the box with a diving save to her right. Later in the half right before the intermission in the 42nd minute, junior Shawnee Morgan gathered a loose ball inside the box and had a point-blank attempt, but once again Booth preserved the 0-0 score with a one-handed save.
The Lumberjacks would have one final opportunity just before the first half buzzer as sophomore Kelly Whelan's third corner kick in the final six minutes of the half found sophomore Diane Buzzard, but Buzzard's header went wide left of the goal.
This set the stage for Schmieder's goal five minutes into the second half. After receiving a lead ball from Wingender, Schimeder snuck a shot past Booth, who had charged out of the goal to make the play. However the goal was temporarily in question as a Thunderbird defender tried to stop the ball before it crossed the line, but the effort was to no avail and NAU took a 1-0 lead.
For Schmieder, a product of Coconino High School locally, it was her first collegiate goal after recording a team-high three assists through her first nine games. Schmieder's goal also marked the second consecutive week that a Flagstaff native scored her first career goal at home after Buzzard, a Flagstaff High graduate, knocked one in last Friday against Florida Gulf Coast.
"At first I definitely thought it was going to be another disappointment, another almost-goal, but I was excited it went in," Schmieder said. "After being a part of so many goals (this season), I felt it was my turn. It felt fantastic."
The Thunderbirds would go on the attack following Schmieder's score, but were unable to net the equalizer despite outshooting the Lumberjacks by an 8-6 margin in the second half.
For the game, NAU outshot Southern Utah by a 16-14 margin, which was the third consecutive game that the Lumberjacks have held the shot advantage over their opponents. NAU also reset its season-high in corner kicks for the second consecutive game, posting a dominating 8-1 advantage in corners on Friday. Wingender and Morgan each tallied a team-high three shots, while defensively, junior Lauren Weaver made six saves to record her first solo shutout of the year.
The announced attendance of 897 fans was the second-highest total for the Lumberjacks this season behind the record-setting crowd of 2,207 for the home-opener against Arizona State. All five home games thus far this season have drawn more than 500 fans, helping the Lumberjacks lead the Big Sky in home attendance by a wide margin this season with an average of 1,006 fans per game.
"Every opponent that we play at home comes off the field and says this is the best environment to play in," Luciano said. "I want to thank all the fans, the students and the community for supporting us. They've been fantastic all season and they're a part of this win tonight."
The Lumberjacks (3-5-2 overall, 1-0 Big Sky) will take the remaining part of the weekend off from competition before continuing conference play next week with games at Weber State and Idaho State next Friday and Sunday respectively.