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Women's Soccer to Close Regular Season at Northern Colorado

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Winners of three-straight games, Northern Arizona closes the regular season on Friday at Northern Colorado. With a win, the Lumberjacks could win the Big Sky regular season title, depending on other results. The Lumberjacks begin the week in second place in the conference, with the top-four teams qualifying for the Big Sky Tournament to be hosted by the regular-season champion.

Big Sky Breakdown

With one game remaining for all eight Big Sky teams, Northern Arizona currently sits in second place with 12 points, trailing Portland State by just a single point. The Lumberjacks can win the Big Sky regular season title only with a win AND a Portland State loss or tie. With a win or tie NAU would clinch a birth in the Big Sky Tournament, though the Lumberjacks cannot win the conference with a tie since Portland State plays Sacramento State, ensuring that one team will get three points or both will get one point and the Hornets would hold a tiebreaker with NAU. The only way the Lumberjacks would not finish in the top-four would be a loss AND wins by Sacramento State, Eastern Washington and Idaho State.

To sum up, NAU could still finish as high as first or as low as fifth in the final regular season standings. The Lumberjacks, Portland State, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington are all still in the running to win the conference and host the Big Sky tournament. Weber State and Northern Colorado are the only conference teams to have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

Scouting Northern Colorado

The Bears picked up their first conference win and ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over Eastern Washington last Friday in Greeley. UNC is a respectable 3-5 at home while just 1-5-1 in road games in 2009. The Bears have been shut out three times in Big Sky play and a total of eight times this season, including a 1-0 home loss to Montana last Saturday.

Sophomore Ariel Cook and freshman Danielle Birdsall are tied for the team-lead with three goals this season while sophomore Kimmie Feidler has two goals and three assists to tie with Cook and Birdsall for the team lead with seven points. Sophomore Kristin Salminen has played the majority of minutes in goal for Northern Colorado and has a 1.32 goals against average and .763 save percentage for the season.

Northern Arizona is 2-2 all-time against their new conference mate, including a 2-1 home win over the Bears last season. NAU has only played in Greeley one previous time in program history, a 1-0 loss in 2007. As mentioned before, Northern Colorado is one of only two Big Sky teams to have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention prior to the last weekend of regular season play.

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 (42) and, perhaps more impressively, shots on goal (21). 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 13 of 17 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.

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 third 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 11 games since then and has averaged more than one point per game in the last 11 contests. She also has a goal or an assist in the last five NAU games, in which the team has a 4-1 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 (140) 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 (94). 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 season due to injury are senior Kara Vitacca, sophomore Ethi Ethridge, and freshman Jennifer Beaudoin. Fortunately, there have been no further injuries thus far in Big Sky conference 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.

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