FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With just two weeks until the start of Big Sky conference play, the Northern Arizona soccer team (0-6-2) aims for a breakthrough in their final home game before four consecutive road matches Saturday night against in-state foe Embry-Riddle. The match is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff and it will be televised live nationally on Fox College Sports Pacific and locally on NAU-TV with a tape delayed broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona on Sunday at 5 p.m.
"This is an important game for us in the sense that our players have to come out and put a complete game together," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We need to defend as a group, get forward with numbers and keep possession of the ball. Most importantly though, we need to keep our composure in front of the goal. I told our players that we can't focus on the opponent, but what we need to do to be successful."
Last weekend, the Lumberjacks hosted Ball State and Evansville as part of the Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament and came away with a pair of double overtime ties which snapped its season opening six match losing streak.
Sophomore Lauren Weaver was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts last weekend in goal, making a combined 14 saves and allowing zero goals in 200:12 minutes in goal. But the offense was unable to convert on its numerous scoring opportunities, despite putting up 41 shots in two games, including a 28-4 shot advantage against Evansville.
"The most important question we had this year was who was going to start in goal for us and I think we answered that question with Lauren Weaver after her performance last week," Luciano said. "The next stage was creating opportunities which I thought we did last weekend. Now the final piece is capitalizing on the opportunities that we create. As long as we can take forward steps in each of those categories, I feel like we're making progress. Ultimately the test comes on the field and I'm looking forward to finishing what we start on Saturday."
Senior Sam Monahan netted her team-leading third goal last weekend and she leads the Big Sky with 22 shots. Monahan also ranks second in the conference in shots per game at 2.75 and tied for fourth in goals. Seniors Chelsea Bednarz and Jenna Samora also rank in the top 10 in shots with 17 and 16 respectively. Weaver is first in the conference in saves per game (6.00), second in saves (36) and fifth in save percentage (.735).
Embry-Riddle is 1-5-0 this season and comes into Flagstaff on a three match losing streak. The Prescott institution is led offensively by junior Kelsey Anderson with 13 shots. Anderson is also one of five different Eagles to each tally one goal on the season. Defensively in goal, junior Ciarra Pederson has made 38 saves, ranking her 23rd in Division I NAIA.
The Lumberjacks own a 3-0-0 series advantage over the Eagles with the last meeting coming in 2009, a 3-1 victory for NAU in Flagstaff. NAU's nine goals in their 9-1 win over Embry-Riddle in 2008 still remains a school record for most goals in a single match.
Fox College Sports Pacific is available on DirecTV Channel 623. The live broadcast will be the first live NAU soccer broadcast in two years. NAU-TV can also be streamed live online at http://extended.nau.edu/NAU-TV.aspx.