FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Three seniors, three different recruiting classes. They may not have come in together, but on Friday they will all end their NAU careers together as seniors Georgia Foltz, Laura Johnson and Jessica Kettelkamp will each play their final games as Lumberjacks when the Northern Arizona soccer team wraps up its season against CSU Bakersfield. The Senior Night match will be televised live from Lumberjack Stadium beginning at 6 p.m.
"The three seniors didn't come in at the same time, so all three of them represent a different type of individual and player coming into the program," said head coach Andre Luciano. "They've had a tough go with the young team we've had this year, but they've been very positive and good role models. They've been emotional about our past successes, and I'm just sad that they weren't able to get a last conference championship."
At the head of this year's senior class is Foltz, who served as this year's team captain. Foltz, a member of the 2008 class, elected to come back for a fifth season after suffering a season-ending leg injury in the second game of the 2011 season. She's the only player to start all 18 games this season and has played all 1,720 minutes in the NAU backline. Since assuming a starter role midway through her freshman season in 2008, she's been a key part of the Lumberjack soccer program which won three Big Sky Championships from 2008-10. She was a part of the Lumberjack defense that broke school and Big Sky records with a six-game shutout streak that spanned 569:02 minutes in 2010. She will finish her career tied for second in matches played in school history with 79 and a tie for fourth in matches started with 73.
"I'll never regret coming back for a fifth year and I would do it again if I could," Foltz said. "There were a lot of ups early and that was just playing for the girls that were ahead of me and laying my heart out for them. Towards the end, there were downs but I was able to be a part of the younger players' growth. We didn't get what we wanted, but we did it together and we know we tried hard and gave it our all. They learned a valuable lesson and I got to be a part of that and I couldn't ask for more. They're a great group of girls and I'm so proud of all of them."
Johnson is the lone remaining member of the 2009 class and has spent the last four seasons playing in 47 career games with nine career starts entering Friday's game in the Lumberjack midfield. As a freshman, she led all NAU freshmen in games played, shots and minutes played. A member of the Lumberjacks' championship teams in 2009 and 2010, Johnson scored her first career goal on the road against Big 10 power Nebraska in 2011. This season, Johnson has recorded career-highs in games played, starts and shots.
"There's going to be a lot of emotions going on," Johnson said. "I'll be sad, happy; I don't know how I'm going to feel. I've played soccer for 16 years and Friday will be my last game. Soccer has been my passion and for it to come to an end, it'll be hard."
Kettelkamp is the final Lumberjack senior, having transferred to NAU in 2010 after a stellar freshman year at Paradise Valley Community College where she helped the team finish third in the nation. After redshirting her first year in Flagstaff, Kettelkamp has provided depth in both the NAU midfield and defensive backline, having played in nine games with two starts over the last two seasons.
"Obviously it's going to be emotional, but putting on the NAU jersey for the last time will make me remember what it took to get here, how far this program has come and how we're leaving it," Kettelkamp said. "I feel confident that although this season wasn't how we wanted it, when the game is over, we're leaving the program in a good place with the players on the team and the team chemistry."
The Lumberjacks will host a CSU Bakersfield squad that is 5-10-2 this season. The Roadrunners will play the second of a three-game stretch against Big Sky opponents to close out the season, having lost to Portland State at home on Wednesday, 2-0, and a road match at Southern Utah on Sunday to follow. They also defeated this season's Big Sky Conference tournament host Idaho State, 5-1, earlier this season. CSU Bakersfield, a Division I independent, is led by Sam Pena, who leads the team in goals (5), assists (5), points (15) and shots (43).
NAU is 5-8-5 and is aiming to end the season with a win having narrowly missing out on the conference tournament for the second consecutive season. The Lumberjacks are just 1-2-3 in its last six matches and have been shut out five games during that span. Defensively though, NAU has been solid with junior Lauren Weaver posting four of her six solo shutouts in the last six games.
"The key will be approaching this game as a very important game against a good opponent," Luciano said. "We haven't been as successful as we wanted to at home, so not only do we want a good sendoff for our seniors, but also leave the season on a positive note so we can build on it for the following year. We also want to give the fans of the program who have supported us something positive to cheer about."
The game will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports, Fox Sports Arizona and NAU-TV locally on channels 4 and 104. The game can also be seen live online here.
Below, each of the three graduating seniors reflect on their careers at NAU, accompanied by a quote from Luciano.
#17 Laura Johnson, M, Gilbert, Ariz.
Johnson: "College soccer was a lot of fun. Even when times got rough, I never gave up because it was worth it in the end."
Luciano: "Laura is a 4.0 student and is going to be unbelievable educator and teacher. She's compassionate and soft-spoken and she's given us everything she's been able to give us on the field for the last four years."
#21 Jessica Kettelkamp, M, Phoenix, Ariz.
Kettelkamp: "I walked on to this team and I want to let people know and the team know that if you have a dream, if you work hard enough, it'll happen. It happened for me, I got to play Division I soccer for three years; so I would say if you have a dream and a passion for something, go for it and see what happens."
Luciano: "Jess came in as a transfer from Paradise Valley and basically came in as a walk-on. She's got the 'heart of a lion' and although she hasn't had the success as a player in terms of playing time, she's never asked for anything, is a 100-percent giver and is extremely unselfish."
#23 Georgia Foltz, D, Escondido, Calif.
Foltz: "Believing in family, believing in each other, that's what this program has taught me. I've learned to love each other and go out and enjoy this game together. As a group, we can combine and we can create something special and it all depends on how we come out and learning from our mistakes. I can take that into the real world and that's huge."
Luciano: "Georgia came in with the 2008 class and was a part of the first group that had postseason success. She helped define this program and is a natural leader, but she had to work for her position. She's a 'captain's captain.' I have so much respect for her as a person and as a player, that I had no problem giving her the reins in terms of leadership of this program."