LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Northern Arizona women's soccer team kicked off their 2014 season on the road in UNLV Friday night. The Lumberjacks had to battle back from a 2-0 deficit and NAU cut the lead to one after an own goal late in the first half but it was not enough as the Lumberjacks dropped their season opener 2-1 to the Rebels.
"We knew that UNLV was going to be extremely motivated to play well in their home opener," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Give UNLV credit, they were better than us tonight and we didn't do what we are capable of."
The Rebels came out of the gates applying heavy pressure to start the game with six shots in the first half with five shots on goal. UNLV took the early lead in the 19th minute of the first half off a shot in the box from Abby Guida. The Rebels extended their lead to two in the 28th minute off a goal from Hayley Wilson.
NAU began to pick up their offensive attack as they forced an own goal in the 40th minute off a cross from Torey Braly into the box. That cut the lead to 2-1 going into halftime.
Northern Arizona tried to climb back in the second half but the Rebels continued to apply pressure on NAU's defense with eight shots in the second half and UNLV was able to hold off the Lumberjacks for their first victory of the season.
"We have a lot of players coming back from season-ending injuries and we are trying to find our rhythm and possession," said Luciano. "This is why we have these games to start the year and hopefully we can turn it around against UC Riverside on Sunday."
It was a homecoming for juniors Natalie Gilbertson, Alexia Gonzalez and Haley Wingender as they were able to play in front of friends and family. Gilbertson stepped in at goalkeeper for the first time in over two years and came up with nine saves.
Four newcomers saw their first playing time as Lumberjacks in freshmen Anna Goebel, Brooke Evans, Adrian Nixt and Maddie Sjothun and redshirt sophomore Demi Schmieder returned to the field after not playing in 2013 due to injury.
"For these freshmen, it is their first game and they quickly found out how fast the game is in college," said Luciano. "They will get adjusted to the speed and pressure of the game so for them it is baby steps."
The Lumberjacks will rest on Saturday before they are back in action on Sunday against UC Riverside at 10:30 a.m. in Las Vegas.
"Riverside will be a tough opponent that loves to get in your face," said Luciano. "For us we need to come out mentally prepared and develop a rhythm offensively."