FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Coming off two losses at the UNLV Invitational this weekend, Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Northern Arizona University women's soccer team is ready to get back to their winning ways against Grand Canyon University this Friday, Sept. 2. This weekend's match-up in the valley is bound to be a good one as NAU itches for redemption after being handed an overtime loss last season for the first time in program history. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. in GCU Stadium.
"The focus for us is not to focus on who the opponent is, but focus on what the opponent does and what we have to do to have a positive result," Luciano said. "We have to continue having longer periods of possessions and creating good chances on goal."
- Four different Lumberjacks have scored for NAU this season: Mei-Te Coco (sophomore), Adrian Nixt (junior), Malia Lyken (freshman) and Anna Goebel (junior).
- Mei-Te Coco was named to the UNLV Invitational All-Tournament Team the weekend of Aug. 26-28.
- Malia Lyken scored her first career goal off a penalty kick against Utah Valley in NAU's home opener on Aug. 19.
- Four out of 12 true freshmen have appeared in all four games this season for the 'Jacks: Malia Lyken, Amanda Bennett, Heather Donais and Shelbie O'Connor.
Grand Canyon University
Day: Friday, Sept. 2
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Phoenix, Ariz.
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Although the 'Lopes are still searching for their first win in 2016 under first-year head coach Derek Leader, GCU returns a wealth of talent from last season including pre-season All-WAC selections junior forward Mila Benedetti and junior goalkeeper Blakely Fraasch. The 0-4 'Lopes have faced three other Big Sky foes already in 2016 (Eastern Washington, Idaho and Weber State) with NAU serving as their fourth.
"We've definitely come to know Grand Canyon's personnel pretty well over the years," Luciano said. "We need to match up with their size because they are a big team and are dangerous on set plays. But I think the main focus for us is to continue to build off what we did last week against UNLV and UC Davis."
In total, Grand Canyon returns nine starters from last year. Leading the way at the start of this season has been junior defender Madison Cox with two of GCU's three goals in four games played. Junior midfielder Rachel Mina has the other goal and Benedetti has tallied one assist. Benedetti finished last season with seven goals and two assists for 16 points and currently leads Grand Canyon in the shot attempts column with 10 in 2016.
After GCU, the 'Jacks will return home for the annual NAU Mountain Classic in Lumberjack Stadium. They will play host to the University of Illinois-Chicago on Friday, Sept. 9 and the University of New Mexico on Sunday, Sept. 11. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.
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.
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.