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Home Opening Weekend on Deck for NAU Women's Soccer

Home Opening Weekend on Deck for NAU Women's Soccer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team has spent the last several weeks gearing up for game week and now it's finally here. On Friday, Aug. 19, Head Coach Andre Luciano and his crew will take on Utah Valley at 7 p.m. with a quick turnaround playing New Mexico State on Monday, Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. in Lumberjack Stadium.

"This team has been extremely focused and determined to do well," Luciano said. "They are a blue collar team that is not afraid to work and have made it a point to play hard for each other. I think our game at Arizona reaffirmed for us that we can compete well with good teams; we're excited to be playing again."

The Scout

Utah Valley

Day: Friday, Aug. 19

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Lumberjack Stadium

Coverage: Live Twitter updates @NAUWomensSoccer

After winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament last year for an automatic bid into the NCAA's for the first time in school history, the Wolverines finished with a 14-7-1 record in 2015. The Lumberjacks will be UVU's first opponent of the season before heading to Tucson to play the 20th ranked University of Arizona. Utah Valley returns seven of their top goal scorers from last season as well as two all-conference players – one being the WAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year in Kalli Suesue.

"Utah Valley is an NCAA Tournament team with a lot of athleticism," Luciano commented. "The key for us is to try to disrupt their rhythm and capitalize on turnovers. We have to continue to focus on being disciplined in our defending and keeping the game in front of us as opposed to chasing it. But I think the most important thing is to focus on working hard and the opportunity to be playing."

New Mexico State

Day: Monday, Aug. 22

Time: 12 p.m.

Location: Lumberjack Stadium

Coverage: Live Twitter updates @NAUWomensSoccer

It's only been since 2009 that New Mexico State's women's soccer program has been around. The Aggies finished fifth in the Western Athletic Conference last season but return a bulk of their roster in 2016. NMSU looks to build off a 5-15-0 record from the 2015 campaign. The last time the 'Jacks and Aggies squared off in Lumberjack Stadium was in NMSU's inaugural season where NAU finished on top. The two squads hold an all-time series record of 1-0-1.

"We always want to win at home," Luciano said. "But it can be a little overplayed at times so we just want to focus every day on playing the way we want to play. It's an odd weekend having Friday and Monday games, which we've never done before, so there's a little bit of a difference in terms of what we have to do to prepare in between games."

Looking Ahead

After back-to-back games at home, NAU will head to Las Vegas, Nev. for the UNLV Rebel Classic. The Lumberjacks will take on UNLV on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. on the Rebels' home turf and UC Davis on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 10:30 a.m.

Veteran Affairs

It's no secret that the 'Jacks graduated a bulk of their starters including four All-Big Sky selections from 2015. But with change, comes new opportunity. With seniors like Dani Muniz and Lindsay Doyle, as well as redshirt junior Missy Kettelkamp, there still is no shortage of experience for NAU.

Muniz appeared in all 19 games last season at defender while Doyle appeared in 18. At forward, Doyle strung together a solid junior season scoring four goals – tied for second on the team with Adrian Nixt – and two assists for 10 points. Kettelkamp, too, brings a strong mix of experience to the table after proving in 2015 she can defend and put the ball in the back of the net.

Youth Movement

Given that 26 players of NAU's 36-player roster are underclassmen, the growth ahead is inevitable. With 15 freshmen aboard the Lumberjack train – 12 newcomers and three redshirts – Luciano and his squad are bound and determined to use what's in front of them as an advantage. Without any one, star player to rely on, Luciano summed up his expectations for this year's team in one word: united.