OGDEN, Utah – After nine wins, finishing third in the Big Sky Conference and reserving a seat in the Big Sky Championships for the second straight season, nine players from the Northern Arizona women's soccer team has earned All-Big Sky Conference selections voted by coaches. Atop the group is senior Sarah Tarver and junior Haley Wingender who were named First Team All-Big Sky.
"I am extremely excited for the honor for our players," said head coach Andre Luciano. "Their body of work has been recognized not only during the conference season but throughout the entire year. I told our players all season long that even though individual awards are nice, but the ultimate goal for any player playing in a team sport is to win a championship. Our players are very focused on that and they appreciate the awards but if you any ask any of our players, they would give away their awards for the team's success."
Tarver earns her first All-Big Sky First Team selection and her third All-Conference Honor overall. The native of Juneau, Alaska earned All-Big Sky conference selections as a forward (2011), an outside back (2013) and this year as a center back. On Sept. 23 this year, Tarver was named Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week and the senior has provided great leadership in the backline that has a Big Sky best 0.78 goals against average this season. Tarver has one assist this season that came in the second game of the season against UC Riverside.
Wingender finished second in the Big Sky this season in points (23), goals (10) and led the conference in game-winning goals with six. Twenty-three points in a season is the most points recorded by a Lumberjack since 2008 when Cee Cee Odorfer recorded 28 points. Last year, Wingender was tied as NAU's leading scorer with five goals and this season the native of Henderson, Nev. doubled last year's total. Wingender now has 17 goals in her career, putting her sixth in NAU history.
Last year's Big Sky Golden Boot Award winner Cierra Gamble earned a spot on the All-Big Sky Second Team after an exceptional season in the midfield for the Lumberjacks. Gamble ended the regular season with one goal and two assists.
Six players earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention for the Lumberjacks'; highlighting the group is senior Diane Buzzard who was stellar as center back for NAU this season. The native of Flagstaff, Ariz. has started every game this season and played in every minute for the Lumberjacks. Redshirt sophomore Natalie Gilbertson has been everything Luciano could ask for in a goalkeeper this season. Gilbertson is having one of the greatest seasons in NAU history at goalkeeper with a 0.52 goals against average, which currently would be the best ever in school history. The native of Las Vegas, Nev. ranks 14th in the country in goals against average with nine shutouts this season. The final member of the defensive backline that earned all-conference honors is junior Ashlynn Curnow being a part of a defense that ranks 45th in the country in goals against average.
Senior Savannah Berry was an All-Big Sky Honorable Mention selection for the second straight season recording two assists this season in 13 games this year. After her first year back from injury, redshirt sophomore Demi Schmieder earned her second honorable mention selection scoring two game-winning goals this season. The final all-conference selection for NAU this year is freshman Adrian Nixt and the native of Portland, Ore. was able to make an immediate impact in her freshman campaign. Nixt scored four goals this season and added three assists for a total of 11 points.
This is the second straight season that Northern Arizona placed nine players on the All-Big Sky Conference teams. These nine players will be back in action this Thursday, Nov. 7, in Missoula, Mont. for the Big Sky Championships when they face the No. 6 seed Eastern Washington in the quarterfinals. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. at South Campus Stadium at the University of Montana.