Cedar City, Utah – Head Coach Andre Luciano and his squad knew there was a lot riding on today's game against Southern Utah University. A double overtime thriller was about what was expected between two teams fighting for a spot in the Big Sky tournament. With a final score of 2-2, after senior Torey Braly tied up the game with 13 seconds to go in regulation, NAU closes out their 2015 season with a 9-8-2 overall record and a 4-4-2 finish in the Big Sky. With Sacramento State's win over Portland State, the Lumberjacks just missed a post-season berth.
"I told our team at halftime, being down 2-0, this is where your character counts," Luciano said. "I'm really proud of how hard they fought to tie the game back up. They played extremely hard for each other. I know the season didn't end how we wanted it to, but they showed what they were made of. "
The 'Jacks entered the first half exactly like they needed to: with a great sense of urgency in maintaining possession of the ball. Within the first five minutes, NAU's Adrian Nixt had two prime looks from the left side of the box, one of which was tipped out high by Southern Utah's goalkeeper Taylor Bolding. Senior forward Haley Wingender had the next opportunity, but missed right.
The Thunderbirds matched Northern Arizona's three shot attempts after 15 minutes in the first half, two of which landed in the hands of redshirt junior Natalie Gilbertson. Still, the 'Jacks had the edge for much of period one, and continued to press offensively. Not to mention, Braly let very few balls pass her by in the backline, and if she did, Gilbertson was there to back her up.
With just under 14 minutes remaining, the Thunderbirds capitalized on their fourth shot attempt after breaking free in the backfield. Nixt continued to fire for NAU with several other looks as the half wound down. Despite NAU maintaining possession for much of period one, some way and some how the Thunderbirds edged the 'Jacks in shot attempts seven to six.
Although SUU had the lead heading into period two, all hope was not lost for Northern Arizona. Senior midfielder Cierra Gamble had NAU's first shot to open up the second half. Time was essentially split on both ends of the field after the first 10 minutes of period two, but NAU jumped past the T-birds in shot attempts eight to seven.
While the Lumberjacks continued to press offensively and claw their way back against an inspired Southern Utah squad, the Thunderbirds found the back of the net in another open look and extended their lead 2-0 with 34 minutes remaining in the game. That was before Braly was moved to the striker position to help give NAU an extra boost on the offensive end. Needless to say, it worked.
With just over 20 minutes left in the game, Braly escaped for a breakaway look and was fouled in the box. Wingender cashed in the penalty kick to put NAU on the board and cut SUU's lead 2-1. This was Wingender's 31st career goal and 12th goal this season, matching her season high from last year.
Northern Arizona continued to create opportunities in whatever ways they could, and with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Braly found the back of the net off a header from Wingender to send the game into overtime.
Overtime brought about even more adrenaline rushes than regulation as Southern Utah had one shot inches from the goal line, but senior defender Ashlynn Curnow kicked it out, and the other bounced off the crossbar. However, neither team could connect over the next 20 minutes, resulting in a double over time tie with a final score of 2-2.