FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's soccer team took on the defending Big Sky champions, Idaho State, in its Big Sky home opener. The Bengals jumped on the scoreboard first, off a goal from Amanda Ellsworth in the 28th minute. The Lumberjacks once again had to climb back from a deficit but like always this season, the Lumberjacks never quit and were able to come back to defeat the Bengals 2-1 to remain undefeated in Big Sky play.
"It was a statement win because they are the defending Big Sky champions," said sophomore forward Haley Wingender. "We wanted to prove that we are a different team this year than last year and we are going to fight until the very last minute."
After the Idaho State's one and only goal in the first half, Northern Arizona's senior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver was stellar and held the Bengals scoreless for the remainder of the game. The Lumberjacks responded with a late goal in the first half from Wingender when freshman Danny Muniz threw the ball into the box to Nicole Sherwin, and Sherwin was able to pass the ball to sophomore midfielder Cierra Gamble, who was able to feed Wingender the assist for her fourth goal of the season.
"I have said it all along this season that this team is gritty," said head coach Andre Luciano. "This team is a group of winners and I was hard on them this week in practice but they responded with a great performance and I am very proud of them for that."
Despite a solid season to the start, Luciano pushed his team all week to stay focused and it paid off. During the week, Luciano was running two-minute situations with his squad up by one goal. In Friday night's match against the defending Big Sky champions, Gamble scored a goal to put the Lumberjacks up 2-1 with two and half minutes remaining left in the match.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my coaching staff for this win," said Luciano. "Our coaches did a great job of scouting Idaho State and we came in with a great game plan that worked to our strengths."
The Lumberjacks were able to apply heavy pressure on Idaho State's defense throughout the entire match putting up 15 shots with seven of them being on goal. Northern Arizona's defense was able to disrupt the Bengal's Allyson Stainbrook who came into the game third in the Big Sky Conference with eight points and did not get a single shot up against the Lumberjacks defense.
For the second straight year, the Lumberjacks have started their Big Sky schedule 2-0 however this season has a different feel to it. After tonight's match the Lumberjacks have surpassed last year's 15 goal total with 16 goals this season with seven matches remaining in the season.
The Lumberjacks will now rest up for Sunday's match against Weber State who was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference. Sunday's kickoff is at 12 p.m. at Lumberjack Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Pacific and Fox Sports San Diego.