FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team dropped its home opening match to the defending Western Athletic Conference champions this evening, Aug. 19, in Lumberjack Stadium. The first meeting in school history between Utah Valley and Northern Arizona finished with a final score of 4-1 in favor of the Wolverines, but Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks have a plethora of bright spots to build on heading into the rest of the 2016 campaign.
"Obviously you always want to win, but our first four games are for us to answer some questions," Luciano said. "I think Utah Valley is a really good team with a lot of pace. We were exposed a little bit on the outsides, but I wanted to see how our freshman would react. They along with our upperclassmen came in and fought."
Given NAU graduated over half its starting lineup from 2015, the early stages of 2016 will likely mean experimenting with lineups, making adjustments and being open to growth along the way. Freshman forward Malia Lyken notched her first career goal off a penalty kick in tonight's contest, giving NAU its lone digit in the scoring column. The Anchorage, Alaska native recorded 35 minutes and two of the Lumberjacks' 11 shot attempts on the night.
"Malia is super dynamic and can hold the ball really well," Luciano said. "It took her some time to get into the preseason flow, but now she's really starting to hold her own."
In the first half, UVU outshot NAU seven to four as junior Riley Porter, redshirt junior Missy Kettelkamp, freshman Hannah Householder and senior forward Lindsay Doyle all had solid looks at goal. Just three minutes into the game, Doyle was stopped short of what very well could have been NAU's first point of the season. Householder, in her inaugural debut in the blue and gold, played 77 minutes at defender – the highest of any newcomer.
Although the Wolverines edged Northern Arizona in total shot attempts (15-11), the 'Jacks positioned themselves for scoring opportunities on numerous occasions. Junior forward Anna Goebel had arguably the best look late in the second half after launching one that looked good from every angle, but unfortunately snagged the crossbar at the last second.
"I think the most telling stat is that we took 11 shots," Luciano added. "For us to get double-digit shots against an NCAA Tournament team, that's a good marker. There are some good things that are being done; we just have to get into a little bit of a rhythm."
The Lumberjacks are back in action on Monday, Aug. 22 against yet another Western Athletic Conference foe New Mexico State University. Kick-off is set for 12 p.m. in Lumberjack Stadium.