FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – In the midst of a home stretch of six of seven home games, the Northern Arizona soccer team continued to find their stride, notching their third consecutive victory on Sunday, shutting out Grand Canyon, 2-0, at Lumberjack Stadium. The shutout was the team's second of the weekend and third in the last four games.
"We found a way to win today," said head coach Andre Luciano. "When you play against a direct team, it's difficult to set a rhythm at times. I'm happy with is the resolve that we showed and our ability to find different ways to win."
For the majority of the showdown between the two in-state rivals, it was a defensive battle with neither team able to establish possession. Shots were few and far between, particularly in the first half where only six combined shots were totaled. Of the six shots only two were on frame, both by the Antelopes, but both attempts were stopped by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson, preserving a 0-0 tie after 45 minutes of play.
In addition to the exceptional defensive play on both sides, the game was also a physical battle with the teams combining for 24 fouls as both sides tried to establish control of the field.
The game would remain tied until the 78th minute when the Lumberjacks finally broke the seal on a scoreless contest courtesy of freshman Anna Goebel's first career collegiate goal. Goebel, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., was the recipient of a perfect lead pass from sophomore Lindsay Doyle that threaded the GCU backline. Goebel, who had beaten her defender, then finished with a strike across the Grand Canyon goalkeeper into the lower corner of the goal on what was just NAU's third shot of the game.
"I don't know how to describe (the feeling)," Goebel said. "I haven't scored a goal since the end of club a few months ago, so I was ready to get in there. I saw a gap between, and I know how good a player Lindsay is at distributing the ball, so I knew that she would get it to where it needed to be. I told myself the next time I got in a game, I'd score a goal so I made sure that happened."
Searching for the equalizer with just 12 minutes remaining, the 'Lopes desperately attempted to press forward and the Lumberjacks found a hole in their defense as a result. Less than 10 minutes following Goebel's score, NAU added an insurance goal off a throw-in by junior Ashlynn Curnow. Curnow found junior Haley Wingender with her throw, which Wingender flicked forward to freshman Adrian Nixt. Nixt was left on a 1-on-1 with the Antelope keeper on a breakaway and touched the ball over into the back of the net for her second goal of the season.
"Around the 75th minute, we changed to a 4-3-3 (formation) and we tried to get in behind them and we were able to do that," Luciano said of his team's first goal. "It was a great service from Lindsay into Anna, and Anna was so calm and collected. It was a fantastic finish by her."
Nixt recorded three of the Lumberjacks' six shots in the game while Gilbertson posted her second shutout in as many games, making four saves in the process.
NAU's shutout of Grand Canyon was its second in two seasons after blanking the 'Lopes, 1-0, a year ago.
The Lumberjacks (3-3-1) take their three-game win streak to El Paso, Texas next Sunday, Sept. 21, to play UTEP. The game is NAU's only date on the road in the month of September and is the team's final non-conference game before starting the conference schedule versus Portland State at home on Sept. 26.