FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team will continue their home stand in Lumberjack Stadium this weekend with games against Alabama State on Friday, Sept. 4 and Oakland University on Sunday, Sept. 6. The Lumberjacks are coming off back-to-back losses to the University of Arizona and an overtime heartbreaker to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The Lumberjacks began to hit their stride in Sunday's (Aug. 30) overtime thriller against UNLV. Northern Arizona outshot the Rebels in the first half by four with clean looks from senior midfielder Cierra Gamble, senior forward Haley Wingender and senior midfielder Lauren Doud. The final count of shots and saves from each team were dead even at 14 and six, respectively. Overtime also brought about a flurry of shots from NAU, but UNLV cashed in its only attempt of the period to seal the win.
"In terms of what we were looking to do the past few games, we have done it, " Head Coach Andre Luciano said. "Now we just have to figure out how to come together and score some goals."
In the three years NAU has secured a slot in the NCAA tournament, the combined record of the first three games of the season is 1-6-2. Luciano and his squad are embracing the process to not only add a digit to the win column, but to reach a second consecutive postseason appearance.
Friday evening (Sept. 4) will mark the first game between the two teams in NAU school history. The Lady Hornets were picked third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference 2015 preseason polls and are coming off an 11-10 overall record. They return two all-conference selections in Aaliyah Lewis and Shelbi Vienna-Hallam. Lewis, a junior forward, has charted 18 career assists in addition to 35 career goals. Accompanying Lewis at forward is her twin sister Ariela Lewis who has scored 15 goals and assisted on nine in her career. Senior defender Vienna-Hallam adds seven career goals and 11 assists to the mix.
The Hornets are currently 0-2-1 on the year with their most recent game against USC Upstate ending in a draw. Of ASU's five goals on the season, Ariela Lewis has three of them. Also chipping in on the offensive end is freshman midfielder Larissa White and Aaliyah Lewis with one apiece.
"Alabama State is coming off a strong season," Luciano commented. "They have some dangerous players in the Lewis twins that we definitely have to be aware of."
Oakland and Northern Arizona have met just once before, posting an all-time series record of 0-1-0 in favor of Oakland. In 2009, the last time the two squads faced off, Oakland came out on top 1-0. They return three All-Horizon League selections in junior forward Alice Palmer, senior midfielder Joan Sieja and sophomore midfielder Vlad Gurovski.
The Golden Grizzlies are 0-1-3 on the season with ties over Central Michigan, Michigan State and most recently St. Bonaventure. They have netted five goals this year, each coming from five separate players in Palmer, sophomore forward Cecilie Dokka, freshman midfielder Sydnye Gagner, senior midfielder Brianne Horne and freshman midfielder Emma Voelker. Sieja has assisted on three of the five goals, which also accounts for all of Oakland's assists this season.
"I think from this point forward, we really have to start focusing on ourselves rather than who our opponents are," Luciano said.
The Lumberjacks will kick-off Friday, Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6. This weekend will conclude NAU's four-game home stand as they will head to the Marquette Invitational next week.