FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Back home in their confines at Lumberjack Stadium, the Northern Arizona soccer team was the recipient of a special goal by sophomore Diane Buzzard in the first half of an eventual 1-1 double overtime draw with Florida Gulf Coast. The game was the nightcap of two games on day one of the Hilton Garden Inn High Altitude Tournament Friday night.
"Florida Gulf Coast is a good team, probably one of the best possession-oriented teams we've played all season long," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Diane Buzzard had a great goal to tie it up and that was a positive. There was a great crowd and they were fantastic, but we have to finish these opportunities we get in overtime. We need to learn to finish these breakaways and chances we get and win a game out."
Buzzard, a Flagstaff native and a graduate of Flagstaff High School, notched her first career goal in front of the hometown fans in the 20th minute after the Lumberjacks gave up their lone goal of the game to the Eagles in the 13th minute. Buzzard was the recipient of a deflected ball that started off the foot of sophomore Kelly Whelan. Following a FGCU handball, Whelan took the free kick from outside the 18-yard box near the sideline, and Buzzard blasted the free ball from 30 yards out for the equalizer.
"I usually get in on those (free kicks), but this time I decided to hold outside the 18-yard box and nobody marked me," Buzzard said. "As soon as the ball got out, I took one, got lucky and I didn't think it went in at first. But it was great, I ran over to the crowd and the best part was seeing my family. It was unbelievable."
After Buzzard's goal, the two teams remain locked at 1-1 for the remainder of the game, but not without missed prime opportunities by both teams. Florida Gulf Coast, who entered the game ranked No. 10 in the Southeast region NSCAA poll, had their best chance to score late in the second half. In the 78th minute, Shannen Wacker emerged from a scrum in front of the net and got a good foot on the ball, but junior Lauren Weaver made a diving stop to temporarily halt the Eagle attack. However, Kaitlin Parker would come up with the loose ball and despite having an open shot inside the box, her shot would go high of the net less than a minute later.
The Lumberjacks would have an opportunity right before the end of regulation as an Eagle foul placed the ball right outside the 18-yard box. On the resulting free kick with 21 seconds left in the second half, freshman Haley Wingender's shot would skip just to the right of the net, sending the game to overtime. In the second extra period, Wingender would have one more opportunity on an empty net, but once again her shot would go wide in the 103rd minute.
Despite the tie, it was a bounce-back game from the Lumberjacks after they dropped a disappointing game at UC Davis last Sunday. For the first time this season, NAU outshot its opponent in a game, doing so with a 13-10 shot advantage over FGCU and holding the Eagles without a shot in the two overtime periods. The Lumberjacks had two players with multiple shots in Wingender with a team-high three and junior Elinor Priest with two. Weaver, making her third consecutive start at goalkeeper, made four saves in goal to preserve the tie.
"We used the UC Davis game as motivation and we decided we're never going to lose like that again," Buzzard said. "(FGCU) was one of the best teams we've played and we both had opportunities to finish. I'm proud of the team in the way we played though. We could've gotten the win, but we fought all the way through, held onto the tie and pushed them to their limits."
In the first game of tournament action on Friday, UNLV defeated San Jose State, 5-1. UNLV will play Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday when action picks up for the second and final game of the tournament at 10 a.m. The Lumberjacks, now with a 1-5-2 record, will then host San Jose State (2-5-1) at 1 p.m. to wrap up Sunday's play.