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November 3, 2009

Women's Soccer Looks to Defend Title at Big Sky Championship

COMPLETE RELEASE (PDF)
COACH LUCIANO QUOTE SHEET (PDF)

LIVE STATS

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Northern Arizona returns to the Big Sky Championship for the second-consecutive year, hoping to repeat as conference champion and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Lumberjacks will open play against host Portland State on Friday at 5:00 PM Mountain time, preceded by the first semifinal between Eastern Washington and Idaho State. Friday’s winners will meet for the Big Sky title on Sunday at Noon.

We’ve Got You Covered

nauathletics.com will provide live coverage from the Big Sky Tournament throughout the weekend in Portland. In addition to live game stats, a live, complimentary game blog will provide detailed game information before, during and after each Northern Arizona contest. Starting Friday, log on to nauathletics.com and click on the Women’s Soccer Big Sky Championship Blog to view all the latest information.

Additionally, nauathletics.com will feature pre and postgame video and complete game previews and recaps as the Lumberjacks battle for a Big Sky crown. Interactive game updates will also be provided on the NAU Athletics fan page on facebook.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Northern Arizona and Portland State will be meeting in the Big Sky Championship semifinals exactly one year to the day that the teams met in the semifinals last year. That meeting was in Ogden, Utah, where the Lumberjacks claimed a 1-0 victory to advance to the championship game. NAU would defeat home-standing Weber State, 2-1, two days later to claim the Big Sky title. The Lumberjacks will have to both defeat Portland State in the semifinal round and oust the conference’s regular-season champion again on Friday for a return to the Big Sky title game.

Championship Tidbits

Portland State won its second Big Sky regular season championship since joining the conference in 1997. Their previous regular season title came in 2004.

In the preseason Big Sky coaches poll, Idaho State and Eastern Washington were picked to finish last in the conference at 7th and 8th, respectively. Portland State was picked to finish 5th while, picked to finish 2nd, Northern Arizona is the only team in the championship that was picked in the top four. Picked to win the conference, Weber State finished last in the Big Sky with a 2-5 conference record.

Idaho State has won four Big Sky championships (2001-03, 2006), the most of any conference team since the championship format began in 1998. Eastern Washington and Portland State have never won a championship title or played in the championship final game. NAU won its first crown last season after playing in the title game three previous times.

The Bengals are 7-1-1 all-time in five Big Sky Championship appearances. Northern Arizona has a 6-6-0 tournament record in seven appearances. Portland State is just 1-3-0 all-time in four appearances while Eastern Washington has never won a Big Sky championship game in three trips.

Scouting Portland State

Northern Arizona was the only team to beat Portland State during the Big Sky regular season, as the Lumberjacks 1-0 win on October 11 in Flagstaff was the lone blemish on a 4-1-2 conference mark for the Vikings. When the teams last met in Portland in 2008, the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

Senior Dolly Enneking led the Big Sky with 25 points during the regular season, tying for the conference lead with 11 goals and adding three assists. She has scored nearly half of Portland State’s 24 goals in 2009, as the Vikings second-leading scorer is junior Frankie Ross with three goals. Senior goalkeeper Cris Lewis was second in the Big Sky in goals against average (0.98), saves (99) and save percentage (.839) with eight shutouts during the regular season.

On October 11 in Flagstaff, Sophomore Jenna Samora broke a scoreless tie with just four minutes and five seconds remaining in regulation to lead Northern Arizona to a 1-0 win over Portland State in the Lumberjack’s Big Sky home opener. NAU goalkeeper Tori Rocke made three saves for the shutout while Lewis made five saves in taking the loss. NAU held an 8-7 advantage in shots for the game and a 6-3 edge in shots on goal while taking two corner kicks and only allowing one.

Scouting Eastern Washington

The No. 2 seed in the Big Sky Tournament at 4-2-1, Eastern Washington’s only conference losses during the regular season were at Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. Should the Lumberjacks and Eagles meet in Portland, it would be the first ever meeting between the programs on a neutral site.

Junior Brittany Sparks tied for the Big Sky lead in goals during the regular season with 11, including one goal against NAU. Sophomore Whittney Brannon contributed five goals and three assists for 13 points, as the pair of Eagles combined for 16 of 25 goals scored by the team during the season. Junior Lisa Dimak led the team in net with a 1.47 goals against average and .770 save percentage, though she allowed four goals to the Lumberjacks.

On October 25 in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona scored three goals in less than eight minutes late in the first half and early in the second half to erase a 2-1 deficit and defeat Eastern Washington, 4-2, on senior day at Lumberjack Stadium. All six goals in th game were scored in a span of just 17 minutes and 40 seconds, with Ashley Marrapode, Brenna Boies, Kristi Andreassen and Carolyn Savage finding the back of the net for Northern Arizona. NAU held a 23-7 shot advantage, an 11-5 advantage in shots on goal and a 4-2 edge in corner kicks.

Scouting Idaho State

The Bengals are the only Big Sky Championship participant that Northern Arizona did not defeat during the regular season, as the NAU loss in Pocatello gave Idaho State the No. 3 seed despite having the same 4-3 conference record as the Lumberjacks. A 4-0 win for Idaho State over Weber State last Saturday elevated the Bengals over Sacramento State and into the championship field.

Senior Annamarie Hofstetter and freshman Ashley Jones led the team with identical stat lines of five goals and five assists for 15 points apiece in the regular season. Sophomore Bailey Williams has played exclusively in goal during the season and has a 1.36 goals against average and .732 save percentage with three shutouts in 2009.

Like a Rock

The only player to start every game for NAU this season and the Lumberjacks leader in minutes played, junior Kristi Andreassen has been a model of consistency and durability along the Northern Arizona back line. As a defender, Andreassen now leads the team in shots (44) and, perhaps more impressively, shots on goal (22). She is the de-facto taker of free kicks for the Lumberjacks, and has come close to scoring goals from midfield or beyond throughout the season.

At 5-11, she is also NAU’s best weapon on the receiving end of corner kicks, having scored two goals this season off corners. Her four total goals are tied for second-best on the team, as Northern Arizona leads the Big Sky in goals for the year. In addition to her strong leg and offensive abilities, she has anchored the Lumberjack defense and has played every minute in 14 of 18 NAU games this season.

The Tempe, Ariz. native was the only Lumberjack to start every game in 2008 as well, becoming only the fourth NAU player to be named to the All-Big Sky First-Team, and appears destined for a second Big Sky First-Team selection. She was also named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District First Team and is being considered for Academic All-American honors.

Sky High Samora

After a slow start to the season offensively, sophomore forward Jenna Samora has been on fire throughout Big Sky play. She has a goal or an assist in five of six Northern Arizona conference games, tying with Andreassen for the team lead with three goals and two assists for eight points in conference play.

She is tied for second in the Big Sky in goals and points in conference games, and is fifth in the conference in goals and points for the season. She leads the Lumberjacks with six goals and two assists for 14 points on the season after being named Big Sky Newcomer of the Year as a Freshman in 2008.

Samora’s numbers are particularly impressive considering she was held without a single point through the initial six games of the season. She has recorded at least one point in seven of 12 games since then and has averaged more than one point per game in the last 12 contests. She also has a goal or an assist in five of the last six NAU games, in which the team has a 4-2 record

Happy Helpers

With two assists this season, senior Sarah Neatherton has moved into sole possession of second-place on NAU’s career assists leaderboard with 16 career helpers. She trails all-time leader Cee Cee Odorfer by just two assists.

Meanwhile, junior Brenna Boies’ conference-leading eight assists in 2009 are tied for the third-highest single-season total in Lumberjack history and have given her a career-total of 15 dimes , which puts her in a tie for third on the all-time career list. She is also now eighth in career points (25).

In a look at other career records being challenged, Neatherton has moved into fourth-place in career shots (142) and is sixth in career points (32). Samora is now sixth in career goals (13) and seventh in career points (30), while Andreassen is seventh in career shots (96). Sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke has moved into third in career saves (185) and is tied for fourth in career shutouts (10).

The Wounded

In the Lumberjacks 2-1 win over New Mexico on September 25, sophomore midfielder Lauren Zallis became the latest on a long list of Lumberjacks to sustain season-ending injuries. Zallis joined sophomore goalkeeper Natasha Slaughter as NAU players to sustain season-ending knee injuries during the 2009 season, though the injury bug hit the Lumberjacks before the season even began.

Senior and team-captain Sarah Vallen endured a season-ending knee injury of her own just before the Lumberjacks first game of the season. Also yet to play this year due to injury are senior Kara Vitacca, sophomore Ethi Ethridge, and freshman Jennifer Beaudoin. Fortunately, there were no further injuries during Big Sky regular season play.

Pack the Jack

The crowd of 2,187 fans in NAU’s game against Arizona established a new program record for attendance at Lumberjack Stadium, surpassing the previous mark of 2,011 set on November 24, 2004 in a game against Nevada. The crowd was just the second over 2,000 and just the fourth all-time attendance figure to reach four digits. In fact, the 2,187 fans was greater than NAU’s total season home attendance in the year 2000, when the Lumberjacks had just five home dates in Lumberjack Stadium.

Four of NAU’s seven-largest attendance figures have been recorded this season. Oddly enough, the nine largest crowds in Lumberjack Stadium history have come in games against non-conference opponents. With a crowd of 516 fans for last Sunday’s home finale, Northern Arizona averaged 884 fans for its nine home games this season, shattering the previous record for average home attendance of 595 set in 2004. Unfortunately, the renovation of Lumberjack Stadium will likely prevent the record from being challenged next season, but when the new stadium is unveiled in 2011 the team hopes to see the attendance record broken again.