FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Redshirt freshman Jennifer Beaudoin scored her first career goal in the 73rd minute and junior goalkeeper Tori Rocke made a season-high nine saves as Northern Arizona defeated Northern Colorado, 1-0, to finish the regular season undefeated in the Big Sky. The Lumberjacks also extended their school-record unbeaten streak to 11 games to end the regular season 11-3-3 overall and 5-0-1 in conference play while Northern Colorado dropped to 10-5-3 overall and 3-2-2 in the Big Sky.
With the win Northern Arizona, which had already clinched the Big Sky regular season title, relegated Northern Colorado to the fourth seed for next week's Big Sky Championship, meaning that the two teams will meet again in Flagstaff next Friday at 2 p.m. in the second Big Sky Championship semifinal. Portland State and Sacramento State, who also faced each other Friday, will meet in the first semifinal match next Friday at 11 a.m.
"I would rather have a game like this, where we got a true sense of what their team will throw at us, then having a game that was a blowout," said head coach Andre Luciano. "From a mental standpoint, it was good for us to play a game like this prior to the conference tournament to get a sense of what the game will be like next week when there's a greater sense of urgency for both teams. They are a very talented team and it was a good game to learn what we will have to do in order to be successful against them again."
Friday's contest certainly had the same intensity and desire from both teams as any postseason games will have, as the match was a tight defensive battle throughout. Neither team could sustain much offense pressure in the first half, as Northern Colorado held a slim 4-3 shot advantage and the teams combined for only four shots on goal in a scoreless opening half.
The offensive intensity picked up in the second half, as NAU almost had a goal just 50 seconds into the second stanza as junior Jenna Samora had a point-blank shot stopped by UNC junior goalkeeper Kirstin Salminen.
The dueling goalkeepers traded saves into the 73rd minute, when the ice would finally be broken. NAU senior Brenna Boies attempted her second of two successive corner kicks, sending a feed into the Bears goalmouth. Salminen got a first touch on the ball but it would deflect off Lumberjack Carolyn Savage to Beaudoin, who would finish into the bottom right corner for her first career goal and 1-0 lead for the home team.
In the 81st minute, Northern Arizona almost doubled its lead as a blast from senior Sam Monahan was partially stopped by a diving Salminen before hitting off the left goal post and out of play. Rocke would stop a final shot on goal from Northern Colorado's Olivia Deadmond in the 86th minute to extend her NAU record to 19 career shutouts and clinch an undefeated conference season for the Lumberjacks.
Salminen finished with seven saves, as both goaltenders were superb in the defensive battle. After the teams combined for only seven shots in the first half, 19 total shots were attempted in the second half, with Northern Colorado holding a slim 14-12 advantage for the game. NAU had a 9-1 advantage in corner kicks while 20 total fouls were called in the game, 13 of which went against the Lumberjacks. Boies and Savage, two of eight graduating Lumberjacks honored before the game, recorded assists in their final regular season game.
The Big Sky Soccer Championship presented by Mortenson Construction begins at Lumberjack Stadium next Friday, Nov. 5, with Portland State facing Sacramento State in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. and Northern Arizona battling Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. Friday's winners will meet Sunday, Nov. 7, at noon for the Big Sky title and a berth in the NCAA College Cup. Tickets for the Big Sky Championship can be purchased through the NAU Central Ticket Office in person on North Campus, over the phone at (928) 523-5661, or online. Admission is free for students from any of the competing schools.