MISSOULA, Mont. – The Lumberjacks began their final road trip of the season facing Montana with their eyes on the Big Sky Conference playoffs. With Northern Arizona being down 1-0 late in the second half, the Lumberjacks refused to quit and scored two late goals from sophomores midfielders Nicole Sherwin and Cierra Gamble to give the Lumberjacks the 2-1 victory over Montana to go 6-2-0 in conference play.
"This may be the grittiest team I have ever coached," said head coach Andre Luciano. "They display great resolve and the heart of a lion so I am extremely proud of my team."
With the win, the Lumberjacks secured a spot in the Big Sky Conference playoffs. Northern Arizona's win over the Griz gives the Lumberjacks 10 wins this season, achieving one of the squad's goal that Luciano had during the preseason.
"At the beginning of the season we had four goals that we wanted to achieve," said Luciano. "We wanted to have a winning non-conference record, we wanted to double our wins, we wanted to qualify for the Big Sky Conference tournament and then we wanted to represent the Big Sky in the NCAA Tournament. We have achieved three of our four goals and now the fourth goal is in our sights."
The Lumberjacks achieved two of its four goals today doubling their win total last year with an overall 10-4-3 record and qualifying for the Big Sky playoffs. Montana was first to get on the scoreboard as Courtney Watson scored in the 56th minute to give the Griz the 1-0 lead. As always this season, Luciano's team refused to quit and Sherwin was able to tie the game in the 72nd minute with a goal from 12-yards out.
"I just love being apart of this team," said Sherwin. "Everything we do is for the team and there is no selfishness. I am glad I was able to score but more importantly I'm glad I was able to score for my teammates."
Sherwin's goal kick-started NAU's offense and in less than ten minutes after tying the match, Gamble received a pass from junior midfielder Savannah Berry and was able to score from 10-yards out.
Senior goalkeeper Lauren Weaver recorded four saves today, which puts her 2nd all-time in NAU history with 295 career saves. For the six seniors on the squad, they return to the Big Sky Conference playoffs where they have not been since 2010.
"It means the world to me to be back in the playoffs," said senior captain Alana D'Onofrio. "Our team has worked so hard since the spring to get to this and to see our hard work is finally paying off is very rewarding."
Montana was able to apply heavy pressure on Northern Arizona's defense as they put up 14 shots with five of them being on goal. Despite only having eight shots on goal, half of the Lumberjacks shots were on goal and they were able to make the most of their opportunities.
The Lumberjacks will now travel to Eastern Washington to face the Eagles to wrap up their regular season on Sunday, Oct. 27.