FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Underneath the lights in their first Friday night home game of the season, the Northern Arizona women's soccer team were able to perform in front of 595 fans against Wright State. Haley Wingender scored on a penalty kick in the first half and that is all the Lumberjacks needed as Northern Arizona defeated Wright State 1-0 for the Lumberjack's second straight win.
"Tonight was the exact same scenario as last week against South Dakota," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We came into halftime up 1-0 like last week but this week we learned how to play with a lead. Wright State is a very good team and they play a game that is very similar to what we will face in the Big Sky."
For the second straight game, NAU's Wingender has attempted only one shot each game but both attempts have ended in the back of the net. Tonight against the Raiders, Wingender's goal came in the first half off a penalty kick when Wingender forced a penalty entering the box and was tripped by Wright State's MacKenzie Hamilton. Wingender capitalized on the opportunity placing the PK in the right side of the goal.
"Before I took my kick, the goalkeeper told me where I was going," said Wingender when talking about the lead up to her penalty kick. "I didn't say anything and I went exactly to where she pointed and luckily I was able to put the ball in the back of the net."
For the first time this season, Luciano put together Diane Buzzard, Ashlynn Curnow, Danny Muniz and Sarah Tarver in the backline and they performed superb as Luciano did not substitute for any defenders the entire match.
The Lumberjack's defense was solid in throughout the entire game allowing a season-low five shot attempts with only three shots on goal. Northern Arizona tied their first half season high with five shots applying pressure throughout the first.
"It felt like the ladies enjoyed playing with each other tonight," said Luciano. "We told the girls don't be ordinary, be extraordinary and they made the effort and as a result their mentality has changed.
Natalie Gilbertson continues to impress in goal for the Lumberjacks as the native of Las Vegas, Nev. came up with three saves for the game, recording her second shutout of the season. In the 79th minute Gilbertson came up with the biggest save of the match off a free kick from Bryce Hueber that made its way pass the wall of NAU defenders but Gilbertson was able to corral the strike and keep the score at 1-0 for the Lumberjacks.
"Tonight we did a great job covering as a defense," said Gilbertson. "We came out with a lot of intensity and handled balls in the air so I am very proud of my team."
The crowd was rocking tonight as the largest crowd this season at Lumberjack Stadium packed the Jack and got behind a hungry NAU team looking for their second straight win at home.
"Tonight is a reflection of Dr. Lisa Campo's vision," said Luciano. "Are fans are passionate about NAU Athletics and this is a result our marketing crew and our students were awesome tonight."
Seeing her first action of the season was senior Savannah Berry after coming back from an injury and played 17 minutes in her first game back.
The Lumberjacks will conclude the Mountain Classic at 1 p.m. on Sunday when they face in-state rival Grand Canyon.