FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With the non-conference season behind them finishing 3-5-1, the Northern Arizona University women's soccer team is set for its conference-opening weekend (admission will be free) at home against Portland State on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. and Sacramento State on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks are coming off an overtime victory against Colorado College and now turn to Big Sky action to keep their momentum alive.
"I think the number one expectation for us is to win the conference," Luciano said. "We have to first qualify by finishing in the top six, so every game from here on out is critical and has a bigger meaning."
- As of Sept. 18, junior goalkeeper Meghan Dickmann is tied for 52nd in the country in shutouts this season with three.
- Dickmann also made her way into the NAU record books as she now has 76 career saves (10th) with 35 of them coming in 2016.
- As of Sept. 18, junior forward Adrian Nixt is tied for 13th in the country and is first in the Big Sky in game-winning goals (3) this season.
- Nixt now has six career game-winning goals, which is tied for 5th in program history. She is also on the cusp of breaking into NAU's Top 10 in career points (31) and career goals (12).
Day: Friday, Sept. 23
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Lumberjack Stadium
Coverage: Live Stats
Portland State wrapped up its non-conference season at San Jose State last Sunday (Sept. 18) falling 5-1 and finishing 2-6 overall heading into Big Sky play. The Big Sky preseason No. 8 Vikings' two wins on the year are over Nevada and Colorado State, but they will begin a new search for momentum against the Lumberjacks at the start of the conference season.
"Portland State has traditionally been one of the better teams in the conference and they are in a rebuilding phase right now much like we are," Luciano noted. "I think their players are going to come out and push really hard. Regardless of what everyone's out-of-conference records are, everybody starts new again and has an opportunity to qualify for postseason. They'll work extremely hard on both sides of the ball and we just have to match that energy."
Portland State returns two All-Big Sky selections from 2015 in senior midfielder Aurora Bodenhamer and junior midfielder Katie Forsee. Forsee has two goals this season and an assist for five points behind Morgan Matthews' three goals and six points. Krystal De Ramos is another emerging player for the Vikings. The sophomore forward is coming off Big Sky Player of the Week honors after tallying two goals against Fresno State on Sept. 2.
Day: Sunday, Sept. 25
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Lumberjack Stadium
Coverage: Live Stats
Sacramento State enters Sunday's (Sept. 25) contest against NAU 2-4-2 overall but will play Southern Utah on Friday, Sept. 23 before coming to Flagstaff. The Hornets finished in a tie for sixth in the preseason polls and currently sit in that same position just below the Lumberjacks at the conclusion of the non-conference slate. Sac State has not won a game since Aug. 27 versus BYU-Hawaii, but has had two double overtime ties since then.
"Sacramento State is a really well-coached team," Luciano said. "They have a ton of experience between their 13 seniors and nine juniors, so I expect them to be a very strong team. I consider them one of the favorites in the conference this year and picked them in my top four initially. It'll be a tough weekend, but we just have to stay disciplined."
They return all 11 starters from the 2015 campaign including Kayla Collins who led the team with 20 points and has two goals this season on 20 shot attempts. Also atop the stat sheet midway through 2016 are Adaurie Dayak and Andrea Boehm with five and four points, respectively. The Hornets have yet to win a road game this season and will be hungry to do so this weekend.
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.