FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – This week will be the final home game for the Northern Arizona women's soccer team this season. That means it will be the final match at home for seniors Savannah Berry, Diane Buzzard, Mary Harrah, Emily Roth, Malia Tano and Sarah Tarver who together have been a part of 26 wins wearing the Blue and Gold. These six individuals have come from the state of Alaska, Arizona and California to share a unique bond that will keep them together for the rest of their lives.
"This group has been through a lot," said head coach Andre Luciano. "They had to come in and replace a pretty significant class in 2011 so they had some big shoes to fill. This class was a part of a rebuilding process and they have been through so much as I put them through the grinder as a coach. I challenged them as a group and I have seen them grow up as people, as players and I am really proud of what they have accomplished so far and where they are leaving the program."
Buzzard is one of the most decorated players to ever come out of Flagstaff, Ariz. and has been a great leader for the 2014 Lumberjacks.
"I have known Diane since she was seven years old," said Luciano. "I have been at NAU for 14 years and I have watched a young girl go from a ball girl on the sideline, to attend our day camps and to watch her develop blossom into an outstanding player here at NAU. My whole career here at NAU has been surrounded by Diane and it is almost the end of a chapter. She has been such a great student-athlete who is a phenomenal student who will do great things in life after soccer. I am going to be sad for Diane when the time comes where she is no longer putting on her uniform for NAU but she is going to have a very successful life."
Buzzard in her career has played in 64 games in her career starting 60 of those matches. The Flagstaff native epitomizes what Northern Arizona University desires in a student-athlete as the senior currently holds a 3.72 GPA majoring in environmental engineering with a minor in mathematics. Buzzard has been a great captain for this year's squad starting in every game this season and playing every minute. Buzzard is a three-time All-Big Sky Academic selection, a 2013 All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection, a CoSida/Capital One First Team Academic All-District 8 in 2012 and a three-time Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete award winner that made the Athletic Director Honor Roll in the 2011-12 academic year.
"I cannot imagine going through these past four years without my teammates," said Buzzard. "These girls have always been by my side and they are and forever will be my sisters."
Buzzard grew up in Flagstaff and decided to attend school in her hometown. Here she happened to meet Tarver - her best friend, her roommate and friend for life - who has been a contributor since day one playing in the midfield and developed into a leader in the defensive backline.
Tarver, the native of Juneau, Alaska is an all-around athlete, playing multiple positions on the offensive attack and in the defensive backline as she is a two-time All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection in soccer and was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 23 this season. Tarver has started and played in every minute for the Lumberjacks this season.
"In all of my years here at NAU, I have never been around a player so versatile ever," said Luciano. "An alum called me about Sarah when she was in high school and I just so happened to be on a fishing trip in Alaska so I was able to see her play in high school and get her to come to Flagstaff. She has been an All-Conference selection as a midfielder, an All-Conference selection as an outside left-back and I would say she has been one of the best center backs in the conference this season. She is quiet but an absolute warrior who doesn't speak much but her actions speak for themselves. She will go down as one of the true greats in this program."
Tarver has played in all 74 games during her career at Northern Arizona, starting in 65 contests. The senior majoring in management has scored five goals in her four seasons in Flagstaff. She is the first player ever in Luciano's program that was a multi-sport athlete playing basketball for NAU during the 2012-13 season.
"It has been a journey but it has been a journey worth going through," said Tarver.
The only transfer in this year's senior class is Berry who has poured her heart and soul on the pitch in her three years at Northern Arizona after transferring from Florida following her freshmen season.
"It is crazy to think that my last game at Lumberjack Stadium is on Friday," said Berry. "The memories I have shared on this field with my sisters and coaching staff are unforgettable and I love all of teammates and coaches."
Berry has made quite an impact on Luciano's program despite being a transfer playing in 46 games and starting in 18 of those matches. The native of Encinitas, Calif. has scored two goals and added eight assists during her time in Flagstaff. The 2013 All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection has been a great leader for the Lumberjacks and displays the toughness of what Luciano wants in his program. Berry will graduate with a degree in bio-med.
"We were gifted by getting Savannah here," said Luciano. "When I first got a call about this kid that was looking to transfer from Florida, I was a little hesitant on why she would want to come to NAU but it has turned out to be such a blessing for us. Her work rate, dedication, personality and her passion is a very good fit for me as a coach but she is also a really good person who is caring. We have relied a lot on her and she will do all the dirty work and you cannot replace a player or attitude like that. I have gotten to know her and her family really well and I am very appreciative she decided to come here."
Tano is a great example of improving each and every year in Luciano's program and Tano is playing her best soccer in her final season at NAU.
"Malia is the prototypical storyline of a player not playing at all her freshman season and having to redshirt," said Luciano. "She maybe was not ready for what Division I athletics entailed but she has grown so much as a player and provided us so many valuable minutes throughout her career. We recruited her as a center back, she played as a forward, she's been an outside mid to a holding center mid and she has done whatever we have asked of her as a player. She is by far one of the funniest people I have ever met in terms of her personality. She is a hard-working player and is someone that exemplifies what college athletics is supposed to be about."
After not playing her freshman season, Malia has been a key contributor these past three seasons playing in 55 games with 35 starts. Each year Tano has increased her total of starts from eight, to 12 to 14 currently with one game left in the regular season. The native of Lake Forest, Calif. will graduate with a major in Hotel & Restaurant Management with three goals and two assists in her career at Northern Arizona.
"This experience has been a roller coaster but I would not have changed it for the world," said Tano. "Having the opportunity to play with a great group of girls who are not only my teammates but also my best friends is something I will cherish forever."
Harrah has been instrumental through her amazing work ethic day-in and day-out; despite suffering a significant foot injury before her senior season, she was able to come back from injury and be a leader for the Lumberjacks this season.
"I wish I could clone Mary in so many different ways," said Luciano. "She is the most genuine person I have ever met who is loyal and has the most unbelievable work ethic. She is genuine with her teammates and her coaches and it is a shame that she had a major setback with a foot injury during the summer because I think Mary could have contributed a lot more if she had not have that injury. She has been such a big part of this program and she will be successful in everything that she does because of who she is as a person."
The native of Solana Beach, Calif. has played in 28 career games with seven starts with two career assists. Harrah was an All-Big Sky Academic selection in 2011 and a two-time Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete Award winner that made the Athletic Director Honor Roll in the 2011-12 academic year. Harrah will graduate with a degree in Business Marketing.
"The past four years have flown by," said Harrah. "I am so lucky to end my college soccer career with such a great group of girls. My NAU sisters were the reason I was able to get back on the field after my injury this season and I am going to miss every moment of it."
The final member of the 2014 senior class is Roth who was forced to retire from playing after her sophomore season due to a career-ending hip injury. Roth was coming off a season in where she was named All-Big Sky Honorable Mention in 2012 scoring a goal and recording an assist.
"I am really sad about Emily's situation," said Luciano. "She came in, wanting to make an impact on our program and she did her first two years, making All-Conference honors her sophomore year but had a freak injury with her hip. Even though it ended her career, Emily has been such a huge part of this program not only through her playing career but in terms of her personality and her approach in everything she does. When she is around us in training she is so pleasant and never feels sorry for herself and loves her teammates. She will be very successful in her next area of her life and soccer is a part of her life but she did not let it define her."
Roth has continued to support her teammates throughout the entire season attending practice and is always there at Lumberjack Stadium to cheer and encourage her fellow sisters during games. Roth will graduate with a major in Environmental Science.
"I cannot imagine a better group of girls to spend my time at NAU with," said Roth. "We are definitely very different from one another, but playing together and supporting one another on and off the field has created a sister-like bond between us. We have had so many wonderful experiences and have made life-long friendships in our time playing for NAU."
This group of seniors has finished their final two seasons with a bang with 18 wins and on the verge of two Big Sky Championship postseason appearances. It is a very versatile group of girls that have played many positions on the pitch and have learned to grow on the field and in the classroom.
"I am really sad that this is going to be their final home game," said Luciano. "These ladies are just really good people and they are fun to be around."