EL PASO, Texas – Last year, UTEP came away with a 4-3 win at Lumberjack Stadium against the Northern Arizona women's soccer team. Well the Lumberjacks returned the favor to the Miners this year as Northern Arizona scored a goal in the 101st minute to come away with the 1-0 win over UTEP in double overtime. The Lumberjacks end their non-conference schedule on a four-game winning streak heading into conference play.
"UTEP is so good at home and they never lose many games at home," said head coach Andre Luciano. "We knew it was going to be a tough battle and the conditions were going to be tough so we had to change our way of playing against them. The players that were here last year really wanted to win this one and to do it at their home is very rewarding."
After grinding throughout the entire match looking for ways to put the ball in the back of the net, junior forward Haley Wingender did not waste any time in the second overtime as she scored 53 seconds into overtime to give the Lumberjacks their fourth straight win. Cierra Gamble crossed a ball from the far side of the box and Wingender was able to hammer it home with the right foot for her third game-winning goal of the season.
"Cierra did a great job of getting down the line and she was able to cross the ball so I could one-time it," said Wingender. "This win shows that we are going to keep working and fighting until the end. I do not care if I score, get an assist or not, as long as my team wins."
The Lumberjacks recorded their third straight shutout against a team who was averaging nearly two goals per game. UTEP came out at the beginning of the game trying to apply pressure with five shots in the first half but the Lumberjack defense stood tall and kept the score tied going into halftime. Three of the four starters for NAU's backline played all 101 minutes in Diane Buzzard, Danny Muniz and Sarah Tarver.
UTEP had played two Big Sky opponents previously this season in Southern Utah and the reigning champions Weber State; UTEP defeated both teams outscoring them by a combined 6-3 and fired off 27 shots. In 101 minutes, NAU allowed only eight shots without allowing a goal.
"Our team bought into our defense mentality," said Luciano. "It wasn't just our backline but it was our midfield and forwards tracking back. We preach about having a blue-collar work ethic and being able to roll up our sleeves and go to work and that is what they did tonight."
As how the Lumberjacks have done all season, Luciano and his coaching staff continue to make key adjustments heading into halftime and find ways to generate some offense as they fired off six shots in the second half and overtimes, which was three more than UTEP. UTEP was not able to attempt a single shot in both overtimes.
"As a staff, we have made more of an emphasis on our fitness," said Luciano. "Our strength coaches have done a great job putting an emphasis on that. We also have had a lot of players play a significant number of minutes for us that normally don't and that contributes to a team win. I am really proud of their grittiness."
It was a physical match with both teams recording 10 fouls and as a result Luciano played 17 players looking to keep fresh legs on the pitch for Lumberjacks throughout the entire match.
NAU ends their non-conference schedule with a 4-3-1 record and now all eyes will now turn towards conference play, which starts on Friday, Sept. 26, against the defending regular season champions Portland State.
"In terms of our mindset it is great that we come out of conference with a 4-3-1 record but now none of that matters," said Luciano. "Everyone is 0-0 starting this week and now we have to start all over."
The Lumberjacks will host Portland State at 7 p.m. at Lumberjack Stadium this coming Friday.