LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Northern Arizona soccer team struck first for a 1-0 lead early in the game, but surrendered three unanswered goals, two in the second half, and fell to Oklahoma, 3-1, on Sunday at Peter Johann Memorial Field. The Lumberjacks finished the UNLV Rebel Classic with a split and carry a 1-4 record into next weekend's games in the Bay Area.
"I thought we played in a very organized manner and stuck to a specific game plan, but just made three very critical young mistakes and it cost us goals," said head coach Andre Luciano. "But for a lineup that started seven freshmen, two sophomores and two seniors, I thought we played a mature game and we're going to be a good team this year."
Sophomore Sarah Tarver scored the game's first goal in the eighth minute for her first goal of the season. Freshman Demi Schmieder recorded her second assist of the weekend on a throw-in and found a wide-open Tarver in the middle of the field. Tarver then blasted the ball from 25 yards out over Kelsey Devonshire into the upper half to snag an early 1-0 lead for the Lumberjacks.
Following the goal, the Lumberjacks had two more quick opportunities to pad their lead with shots that went wide of the goal off the foots of freshman Haley Wingender and Tarver. Unable to extend the lead, the Sooners would then tie the game in the 24th minute off an NAU mistake. Zoe Dickerson stole the ball on a broken play and capitalized from 10 yards out to even up the game at 1-1, a score that would hold into the second half.
In the 57th minute, Oklahoma's Renae Cuellar would net the eventual game-winner, scoring on empty net after freshman Natalie Gilbertson and senior Georgia Foltz collided in front of the net going after the lead pass. The Sooners would later add an insurance goal in the 70th minute as Amy Petrikin headed in a goal.
The Lumberjacks, down throughout the second half, had its share of near misses while attempting to find the equalizer. Sophomore Kelly Whelan had one of her three shots on goal in the game stopped by a diving Devonshire in the 62nd minute and later, junior Elinor Priest just missed a header off a crossing pass by Wingender.
Oklahoma held the shot advantage for the game at 18-13 and a slight advantage in corner kicks at 3-1. Gilbertson made five saves in the game before being relieved in the 76th minute by junior Lauren Weaver, while Whelan registered a team-high three shots, all on goal. As a team, the Lumberjacks placed an exceptional eight shots on goal of their 13 attempts.
"Every game we're about 16 or 17 games more experienced based on the personnel," Luciano said. "When I evaluate from the first game of the year to where we are right now, there's been a huge amount of growth and we look forward to the month of September."
The Lumberjacks are back on the road next weekend as they make a trip out to Northern California with games at San Francisco on Friday and UC Davis on Sunday.