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Women's Soccer to Continue Big Sky Play at Idaho State, Weber State

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LIVE AUDIO (Thursday at Idaho State)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Northern Arizona heads back on the road for a pair of Big Sky games this week, battling Idaho State and Weber State on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The Lumberjacks went 1-1 on the opening weekend of conference play, falling 2-1 at Sacramento State but rebounding with a 1-0 home win over Portland State.

Scouting Idaho State

The Bengals began conference play with a 3-1 win over Montana before falling, 1-0, at Eastern Washington last weekend. The loss to the Eagles ended a four-game winning streak for ISU, which played four of the same teams that NAU faced in the preseason. The Bengals went 3-1 in those similar contests, defeating Utah State, New Mexico State and Southern Utah but falling to New Mexico.

Freshman Ashley Jones leads the team with three goals and four assists for 10 points and is the defending Big Sky Co-Offensive Player of the Week. Senior Annamarie Hofstetter also has three goals and has taken a team-high 31 shots. Sophomore Bailey Williams has played exclusively in goal for the Bengals this season and has a 1.25 goals against average and a .774 save percentage.

NAU is 5-6-2 all-time against Idaho State, including a 1-0 win in Flagstaff last season. The Lumberjacks have not won in Pocatello since a 2-1 victory in 2005.

Scouting Weber State

Picked by the Big Sky coaches to repeat as regular-season conference champions in 2009, Weber State won its initial four games of the season but since then have lost eight consecutive contests. The Wildcats have been outscored 15-4 during their eight game losing streak and have been shutout four times during the slide. Last week, Weber State dropped a 1-0 decision to Eastern Washington and took a 2-1 loss at Montana. The Wildcats have scored only 10 goals in 12 matches this season.
Sophomore Ari Wood paces the squad with three goals and two assists for eight points while sophomore Jessie Baddley has contributed two goals and three assists in 2009. Senior Rebecca Ritchie has played the entire season in goal for the Wildcats and has ammased a 1.31 goals against average and .830 save percentage to go with three shutouts.

The Lumberjacks are just 3-11-1 all-time against Weber State, but defeated the Wildcats, 2-1, in the Big Sky championship game in Ogden last season. That victory ended a nine-game winless streak for NAU against the Wildcats, which included a 1-0 loss earlier last season in Flagstaff.

Go (Back) to Your Corner!

In the last three games of the Lumberjacks five-game homestand, NAU attempted an astounding 30 corner kicks while allowing only seven to the opposition. NAU attempted 11 corner kicks in each of their games against Embry-Riddle and New Mexico State, scoring three goals off those attempts, and added another corner kick-goal against Murray State.

However, in Northern Arizona’s last four games, the team attempted just nine total corner kicks while allowing 14. Those numbers go hand-in-hand with a sharp decrease in shot attempts, as NAU had taken 72 shots in the previous-three games but attempted just 30 shots in the last four contests.

The team was outshot 52-10 in their two games at New Mexico and Arizona State, and only attempted one total first half-shot in the pair of games. The Lumberjacks also only put five shots on goal during the road trip, but were able to score twice against the Lobos in their 2-1 win.

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 is second on the team in shots (28) and, perhaps more impressively, second in shots on goal (13). 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, and scored her lone goal this season off a corner. In addition to her strong leg and offensive abilities, she has anchored the Lumberjack defense and has played every minute in 10 of 13 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 and perhaps conference Defender of the Year in 2009. Oh, and she has a perfect 4.00 GPA in her Northern Arizona academic career.

Like a Rocke

Following off-season shoulder surgery, sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke was forced to sit out NAU’s initial three games of the season. Upon her return to the Lumberjack goal, Rocke endured some early struggles, allowing three goals to Loyola Marymount, one goal on just three shots against Oakland, and four goals against Iowa.

Since then, the sophomore from Garden Grove, Calif. has appeared to regain her form from a year ago that led the team to the NCAA Tournament and earned Rocke All-Big Sky Honorable Mention. After sitting out the Lumberjacks game versus Embry-Riddle, Rocke made three saves in a 3-1 win over New Mexico State, four saves in a shutout of Murray State, and seven saves in a 2-1 upset of New Mexico. She did allow four goals in the Lumberjack’s 4-0 loss to Arizona State, but made six outstanding saves while facing 24 shots. She recorded her second shutout of the season with a three-save effort last Sunday against Portland State

In just her second season in the NAU goal, Rocke is already fourth in Lumberjack history with 174 career saves and is fifth in shutouts with nine. She led the Big Sky in goals against average (.40), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (4) in conference games last season, and the Lumberjacks will hope for similar numbers for a successful title defense in 2009.

Happy Helpers

With one assist this season, senior Sarah Neatherton has moved into a tie for second-place on NAU’s career assists leaderboard with 15 career helpers. She trails all-time leader Cee Cee Odorfer by just three assists.

Meanwhile, junior Brenna Boies’ conference-leading seven assists in 2009 are tied for the fourth-highest singles-season total in Lumberjack history and have given her a career-total of 14 dimes , which puts her fifth on the all-time career list.

In a look at other career records being challenged, Neatherton has moved into fourth-place in career shots (132) and sixth in career points (29). As mentioned before, sophomore goalkeeper Tori Rocke is fourth in career saves (174) and is fifth in career shutouts (9).

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 season due to injury are senior Kara Vitacca, sophomore Ethi Ethridge, and freshman Jennifer Beaudoin. Now that Big Sky play has begun, Northern Arizona will have to play without its fallen players and hope the current squad can remain intact.