FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Before heading out on its final road trip of the regular season, the Northern Arizona soccer team will aim for a critical victory on Sunday as it'll host Sacramento State at Lumberjack Stadium at 12 p.m. The match will serve as the Lumberjacks' annual Think Pink game in honor of breast cancer awareness as well as Youth Soccer Day.
All fans who wear pink will receive free admission. All youth 12 and under who wear their soccer jersey will also get into the game for free and will also be able to participate in a post-game clinic with the Lumberjack soccer players and coaching staff. Parents must register their youth at the game on Sunday.
The Lumberjacks (4-6-3, 2-1-1 BSC) are coming off a 0-0 double overtime draw with Portland State Friday night and picked up a point in the conference standings in the process. The tie put them in a four-way tie for fourth place with Idaho State, Montana and Eastern Washington with seven points in the compact Big Sky standings at the moment. In all, eight of the 10 teams in the conference are currently in the mix with at least two conference victories through the first two and half weekends of Big Sky action, creating a current logjam with just the top-four teams qualifying for the postseason conference tournament.
Junior Lauren Weaver had a career-night in Friday's tie, recording a career-high 12 saves and keeping the Vikings off the scoreboard despite the Lumberjacks being outshot by a 19-10 margin. The shutout was Weaver's third solo shutout in four conference matches as she's allowed just two goals in 380:00 minutes in Big Sky play. Her play against conference opponents has put her above all of the Big Sky goalkeepers, as she leads in saves, save percentage, saves per game and is tied for the most shutouts in conference matches only. Her current goals against average (0.98) and save percentage (.873) are good for third and second respectively overall in the Big Sky.
The Lumberjacks will need Weaver to continue her dominance on Sunday as Sacramento State enters as the Big Sky leader in shots and second in points and goals scored. Following their 3-1 victory at Southern Utah on Friday, the Hornets are currently tied with Portland State for first in the Big Sky with 10 points and a 3-1-1 conference mark. Victoria Ramirez leads the team with four goals and 11 points and she also shares the team-lead in assists with three. Alyssa Anderson, who scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the Hornets' win on Friday, is tied with Elece McBride for second on the team with three goals.
"Sacramento State is always a well-organized team and they're very possession-oriented," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Players like Victoria Ramirez have been so dangerous over the last four years and we're going to have to focus on defending as a group. They're another good team and everyone is battling for first place in the conference right now."
Offensively, NAU is led by freshman Demi Schmieder, who leads the Lumberjacks in both assists (4) and points (6). Although she's played the role of facilitator on the attack this season, Schmieder has been more involved in attacking the goal in conference play as she leads the team with 10 shots and seven shots on goal through the first four Big Sky matches. She's taken a team-high four shots in each of the last two games and has placed five of those on frame. Junior Shawnee Morgan has also taken on a bigger role in the offense in conference play after beginning the season in the backline as she ranks second behind Schmieder with seven shots in the last four games. Although Morgan has not found the back of the net yet, she's narrowly missed on a couple of opportunities including the potential game-tying goal late in NAU's only conference loss at Idaho State last week by inches.
The Lumberjacks hold a narrow 9-7-1 advantage over the Hornets in the all-time series, including a 7-1-0 mark at home. The two teams played to a 1-1 tie last season in Sacramento.