Women's Soccer to Host Murray State to End Long Homestand
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Winner’s of two-straight, Northern
Arizona plays the last of a five-game homestand as it welcomes the
Racers of Murray State. Needing a victory to get back to .500, the
Jacks will play five of their next six games on the road after
Friday’s match, including the start of conference play. Fans
are encouraged to arrive early for the contest, as there will be a
free Chain Gang spirit rally beginning at 6:15 p.m. at Lumberjack
Scouting Murray State
The Racers won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title in 2008 with a program-record 12 wins, but lost in penalty kicks in the OVC Championship game to Morehead State. Following an 0-2 start to 2009, the Racers pounded Alabama A&M 9-1 in their home opener and split a pair of games last weekend in a tournament at Tennessee-Martin. Friday’s game will be the third match of a grueling eight-game roadtrip for Murray State, which includes a stop at Southern Utah on Sunday.
Despite a 2-3 record, the Racers have scored 13 goals this season in just five games (though nine came in the aforementioned win over Alabama A&M, a Division-I school that is 0-7 and incredibly has been outscored 55-3 this season). Sophomore Sophie Hargreaves had a goal and three assists in that game and leads the team with seven points for the season. Junior Laken Dirkes has three goals while four other Racers have scored twice in 2009. The Murray State goalkeepers have made only nine saves all season while allowing 12 goals, though freshman Katie Walsh is 2-0 since taking over in net.
Northern Arizona has never faced Murray State, which is located in Murray, Kentucky. They will represent this first opponent from the Bluegrass State in NAU women’s soccer program history.
Go to Your Corner!
In the last two games, Northern Arizona has taken an astounding 22 corner kicks while allowing only three to the opposition. The Jacks attempted 11 corner kicks in each of their two games last week, scoring three goals off those attempts. NAU had allowed 29 corners while attempting only 22 through the initial six games of the season, but doubled their season output last week and now have a 44-32 advantage in what has proved to be a key offensive statistic.
The Lumberjacks hadn’t scored a goal off a corner kick through the first five games of the season, but have scored four goals off corners in the last three games. That amount is equal to the total number of goals scored through the opening five games of the season. The increase in attempts has, not coincidentally, coincided with a 52-16 shot advantage for the Lumberjacks in their last two contests and a major controlling of possession.
With marksman Brenna Boies taking the majority of NAU’s corner kicks and weapons like 5-11 Kristi Andreassen on the receiving end, the corner kick should continue to be an important offensive tool for the Lumberjacks throughout the season.
Northern Arizona had scored only five goals this season through six games, averaging just .83 goals per game, but exploded for six goals on 52 shots in two games last week. Facing NAIA school Embry-Riddle and first-year women’s soccer program New Mexico State certainly helped, but a simplification of the offensive game plan and a commitment to taking more shots led NAU out of the offensive doldrums.
The Jacks had scored just one goal in the 336 minutes and 28 seconds leading up to Wednesday’s contest with Embry-Riddle, a span of more than three and a half games. The home team put a quick end to that streak, scoring the game’s first goal just one minute and 51 seconds into the match. NAU also had a quick strike on Saturday against New Mexico State, as Sarah Neatherton got on the board in the 11th minute. With double-digit shots recorded in three of the four halves of soccer last week, NAU made sure to assert its offensive presence early and often.
Wednesday’s game also included the initial second-half goal of the season for NAU, which got its first goal in the second stanza when Jenna Samora scored in the 75th minute. The Lumberjacks would add another second-half goal in that game as well as a late tally against New Mexico State.
NAU had put just one shot on goal every 18 minutes and 40 seconds prior to last week, but with 23 shots on goal in the two games they were firing on net at a rate of one sog every 7 minutes and 50 seconds for the week. With that effort, the Lumberjacks shaved nearly five minutes off their season shots on goal rate and are now putting a try on goal once every 13 minutes and 58 seconds for the year.
Sophomore midfielder Lauren Zallis scored her fourth goal of the season to cement NAU’s victory over New Mexico State on Saturday, extending her team-lead and tying her with Eastern Washington’s Brittany Sparks for the goal scoring lead in the Big Sky.
The sophomore scored twice against Southern Utah during the Lumberjacks game in Cedar City, leading Northern Arizona to a 2-0 win and earning the initial Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week Honor for the 2009 season. The award was the first for Zallis, who doubled her career scoring total in that game. She would add a goal late in the first half against Arizona and ended a four-game scoring drought with her tally against the Aggies.
Zallis earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention during her 2008 freshman season, playing in all 22 games with 17 starts. She tallied two goals and one assist, and played a season-high 78 minutes against Portland in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.