Photo Courtesy of Todd Goodrich
MISSOULA, Mont. – The Northern Arizona women's soccer team faced Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Championships who had defeated the Lumberjacks on Oct. 19 in Flagstaff. Today Northern Arizona returned the favor scoring three goals and defeating the Eagles 3-2 to advance to the Big Sky Semifinals.
"Today the team did everything I asked of them," said head coach Andre Luciano. "I want to congratulate Eastern Washington on a really good season because that team was so hard to beat. Offensively we knew we needed to put pressure on Eastern Washington so for us we had more of an attacking mindset."
Gamble scored in the 15th minute that started from a throw-in to give NAU the 1-0 lead over the Eagles with 30 minutes left in the first half. Savannah Berry started with a throw in on that Lauren Doud headed into the box where Gamble was able to poach the kick of Eastern Washington's goalkeeper to give NAU the 1-0 lead with 30 minutes left in the first half.
"If you shoot you score," said Luciano. "We told our players to have more of an attacking mindset and they responded well. Cierra had a great first goal to be aware of the keeper being out."
Nearly five minutes later, Eastern Washington responded with a goal in the box from Cassie Black to tie the game at 1-1. The Lumberjacks continued to attack though in the first half and their hard-work paid off as NAU retook the lead in the 27th minute. Torey Braly was able to steal a ball going to Eastern Washington's keeper and put the ball in the back of the net giving NAU the 2-1 lead.
"We found a rhythm as a team today," said Braly. "We have a strong desire to win for each other and hopefully we can continue to stay on this roll."
Eastern Washington had a golden opportunity when NAU committed a foul in the box. The Eagles' had a free kick eight-yards inside the box but NAU's wall of defenders in goal was able to prevent EWU from tying the game in the first half. The Lumberjacks ended the first half with 10 shots, six on goal.
Northern Arizona came out in the second half looking to extend their lead and Demi Schmider delivered with a goal in the 52nd minute. Haley Wingender fired off a shot outside the box that hit the crossbar and Schmieder was able to crash the net and head the rebound into goal extending NAU's lead 3-1. In the 70th minute NAU came close to a fourth goal when Wingender's shot hit the post.
Eastern Washington did not go away quietly as they Eagles scored in the 83rd minute off a goal from Savannah Hoekstra to come within one goal from tying the game. With seven minutes left in the game the Eagles did everything possible to try and tie the game but the NAU defense stood tall to send the Lumberjacks into the semifinals.
"Our defense came out a little slow today," said Doud. "We gave up two goals but we can fix those mistakes and after playing on this field today we know how teams are starting to play. Hopefully we can contain the forwards better tomorrow than what we did today."
The Lumberjacks now turn their attention to the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Portland State, who earned a bye in the quarterfinals. The Vikings finished the regular season with a 9-5-4 with a 6-2-1 record in the Big Sky and riding a six-game unbeaten streak.
"Portland will be very well-organized and attacking oriented," said Luciano. "They have a great backline with an aggressive midfield and today for us is all about recovering."
Kickoff for tomorrow's semifinal matchup with the Vikings is at 11 a.m. at South Campus Stadium in Missoula, Mont. and you can watch tomorrow's match on the Watch Big Sky page.