FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After two gritty wins this past weekend against Alabama State and Oakland University, Northern Arizona women's soccer will hit the road for Milwaukee, Wis. for the first time this season. They are set to face Marquette University on Friday, Sept. 11 and the University of Loyola Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 13 in the Marquette Invitational.
"We always talk about the three stages of our season, and one of them is to come out of our non-conference segment with a winning record," Head Coach Andre Luciano said. "This gives us a great opportunity to go into Milwaukee and walk away with some positive results."
Last season the Lumberjacks posted an away record of 4-4-1 and are looking to capture their first road wins of the 2015-16 campaign. Northern Arizona's senior forward Haley Wingender will lead the Lumberjacks on the offensive end of the ball this weekend as she is coming off three goals in two games. Wingender sits among the top of conference opponents with four goals this season and is now fifth all-time in individual career goals in program history.
On the defensive end, senior defenders Torey Braly and Ashlynn Curnow will continue to lead NAU's back line. The dynamic duo, alongside redshirt junior goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson, made their presence known last weekend in only allowing one goal in two games. In the win over Oakland, the Golden Grizzlies had four chances to go ahead 2-0 in the second half, but Braly and Curnow helped fend off seven less shots than Oakland's average (13.8) shots per game.
Come Friday, the Lumberjacks will face Marquette for the first time in program history. Marquette is currently 2-3-0 with wins over Michigan and Boston, posting a 1-3 home record. They have tallied nine goals on the year with three coming from redshirt sophomore midfielder Molly Pfeiffer. The remaining goals are spread equally amongst six players at one apiece. All-Big East Conference selection returners are junior midfielder Liz Bartels (first team), redshirt senior defender Jacie Jermier (second team) and junior defender Morgan Proffitt (second team). Jermier and Bartels are two of the six with one goal this year.
"Marquette is traditionally a Top 25 team," Luciano said. "They are a very good possession oriented team and have some dangerous players in Pfeiffer and Bartels. For us, we have to focus on what we are going to do offensively. When we attack, we are much better than when we sit back and defend."
The last time NAU played Loyola in 2005, the outcome was in favor of Loyola 2-1 in Lumberjack Stadium. Despite the Ramblers' sixth place vote in the preseason polls out of seven Missouri Valley Conference teams, they have three wins on the year with victories over the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Saint Francis University and Army West Point making their current record 3-2-1. Likewise for NAU, this is Loyola's first neutral site game of 2015.
Loyola returns two All-MVC Conference picks in junior defender Shelby Koch (honorable mention) and sophomore forward Katie Grall who was named to the all-freshman team last season as well as honorable mention. The Ramblers offense is sparked by young talent in freshman forward Jenna Szczensny with three goals and one assist, good for seven points, in six contests this year. Following close behind Szczesny is freshman forward Claire Oberle with two goals.
"We'll respect both opponents as they each have some strong wins this year," Luciano said. "Our main focus and energy is to see what we can create off of Friday's game and make adjustments from there."
Friday's game (Sept. 11) will begin at 6:15 p.m. and kick-off for Sunday, Sept. 13 is set for 9 a.m. mountain standard time.