FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior forward Jenna Samora scored on a blast from 25 yards out in the 58th minute and Northern Arizona recorded its 10th shutout of the season with a 1-0 win over Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Championship Semifinals. The Lumberjacks ran their school-record unbeaten streak to 12 games, improving to 12-3-3 overall and advancing to their third straight Big Sky Championship Final. Northern Colorado, which lost to NAU by the same score last Friday in Flagstaff, ended the season at 10-6-3.
Northern Arizona will host Sacramento State at noon on Sunday in the Big Sky Championship Final after the Hornets eliminated Portland State, 2-1, in the first semifinal match on Friday.
"I thought we gave a gutsy performance today," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Northern Colorado is a great team and we knew this game would be an absolute war. They threw everything at us and I'm very proud of the way we played and how we stepped up and did what we needed to do to win."
"Jenna's goal was world class," added Luciano about his junior forward's sensational strike. "We were disappointed that she was only voted honorable mention this year by the Big Sky coaches and I told her 'big time players always score in big time games', and she was great for us today."
Before the Lumberjacks were able to strike in the second half, the teams played a tightly contested first half eerily reminiscent of the first half of their matchup last Friday to end the regular season. Both teams only had four shots in the first half, though NAU did place three of their four tries on goal with Bears netminder Kirstin Salminen stopping each attempt. Lumberjack junior goalkeeper Tori Rocke had to make just one save in the first half as the teams played a scoreless opening 45 minutes.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Northern Colorado had its best chance to score. Junior midfielder Kimmie Fiedler fired a shot on goal from atop the Lumberjack box, forcing Rocke to make a superb leaping save to deflect the ball over the crossbar.
After dodging that scoring chance and two other errant Bear shots, Northern Arizona would get the games only goal off the foot of Samora. Senior Brenna Boies played a lead ball to the Lumberjack junior, who was able to fire off a volley 25 yards from the UNC net. The try was perfect, beating Salminen to the top-right corner of the goal to put the Lumberjacks ahead.
Northern Colorado tried valiantly to net an equalizer, out-shooting NAU 5-4 through the remainder of regulation. Rocke made two saves, the Lumberjack defense blocked one shot, and when a final try in the 89th minute from Northern Colorado senior Brittani Knott sailed high, Northern Arizona advanced to its third-straight Big Sky Championship Final.
Northern Colorado held a slim 12-10 shot advantage for the game and took seven corner kicks while Northern Arizona had just one, a season low. Rocke finished with five saves for her ninth shutout of the season and the 20th shutout of her career, moving her just two shutouts away from equaling the Big Sky career record. Northern Colorado's Salminen finished with four saves, while Northern Arizona's Boies extended her program record to 23 career assists.
With a win on Sunday, Northern Arizona would not only claim its third straight Big Sky title but would also equal the Big Sky record for longest unbeaten streak. Sunday's Big Sky Championship Final will be a rematch of a game played in Flagstaff on October 15th, in which Northern Arizona defeated Sacramento State, 3-2. NAU has allowed just three goals in its last-12 games, two of which were scored in that match by the Hornets. Fans not able to attend the championship match can follow live stats on nauathletics.com and watch a free live video broadcast on bigskytv.org.