LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Northern Arizona soccer team received strong goalkeeping play from freshman Natalie Gilbertson in her first career game, but UNLV struck for two first half goals en route to a season-opening 2-0 defeat of the Lumberjacks.
"We came out a little too tentative to press them," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We gave them way too much space and they made us pay for it. I thought in the second half we came out a little more assertive going forward and we had some opportunities. I thought it was a fair second half."
The Rebels were the aggressors from the onset, repeatedly putting pressure on the Lumberjacks with five shots in the first 25 minutes. Then in the 26th minute, Alexis Peterson sent a lead pass over the NAU backline to Jenn Wolfe, who beat Gilbertson on a 1v1 to the top right corner.
Less than five minutes later in the 31st minute, the Rebels converted on a corner kick by Julie Owens for their second goal of the game. Owens sent the corner in front of the net where Addy Guida headed in the home team's second goal of the game. The Rebels would then take a 2-0 lead into halftime, a score that would hold the rest of the game.
Although the Lumberjacks were unable to notch a goal in the second half, they played UNLV evenly in the final 45 minutes. After UNLV took an 11-1 shot advantage into the intermission, NAU held the Rebels to just four shots in the second half while putting up four shots of their own. The Lumberjacks had their first scoring opportunity just two minutes into the half when sophomore Diane Buzzard's header off a corner kick from redshirt freshman Malia Tano sailed wide of the net.
Freshman Haley Wingender totaled the final three NAU shots of the half including a shot from 20 yards out that went just right of the net in the 73rd minute. She had another opportunity less than two minutes later that also went wide.
Despite allowing the two first half goals, Gilbertson, a Las Vegas native, had a solid collegiate debut recording six saves in front of her hometown.
"The first goal we had a breakdown in the backline and (Wolfe) scored on a 1v1 and there wasn't much Natalie could've done about that," Luciano said. "On the second goal, we left a mark open and there wasn't much she could do either. But she came up big in some situations and I thought it was a good performance for a freshman."
Wingender, a native of nearby Henderson, Nev., led the Lumberjacks with three shots. Buzzard had one shot while freshman Nicole Sherwin had the team's lone first half shot.
The Lumberjacks make their home debut next Friday, Aug. 24, as they host Arizona State at Lumberjack Stadium at 7 p.m. NAU will then host Arizona on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 12 p.m. Both games will be a part of Welcome Weekend on campus and it will be the first time they will host both of their in-state Pac-12 rivals in the same season.
"I think we battled in the second half and woke up from our nap in the first half," Luciano said. "The freshmen know what to expect and our upperclassmen saw what our younger players can do. We're going to move forward with confidence."