FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team is making the turn into the final two weeks of the regular season with league-leader University of Idaho and Idaho State up next. Coming off a prominent victory over the Eagles of Eastern Washington last Sunday, Oct. 16, Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks are ready for yet another challenging two games ahead of them. Northern Arizona will take on the Vandals this Friday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. MST and close out the weekend at Idaho State on Sunday, Oct. 23 at noon MST.
"This could be our most important weekend of the year," Luciano said. "We have to really focus on Idaho and trying to steal points away on the road. We dropped four out of a possible six points at home with ties, so we have to make that up on the road."
-Northern Arizona snapped Eastern Washington's 10-game, two month unbeaten streak on homecoming weekend (Oct. 16). This was also EWU's first Big Sky loss of the season.
-Meghan Dickmann recently made her way into the NAU record books as she now has 103 career saves (ninth) with 62 of them coming in 2016.
-As of Oct. 16, junior forward Adrian Nixt is eighth in the country and tied for first in the Big Sky in game-winning goals (5) this season.
-Nixt now has eight career game-winning goals, which is fourth in program history. She also cracked NAU's Top 10 in career points (tie for eighth) with 45 and NAU's Top 10 (tie for sixth) in career goals with 19.
-In NAU all-time individual season records, Nixt is tied for third in game-winning goals.
-Senior forward Lindsay Doyle is one goal away from cracking the NAU Top 10 in career goals as she now has 11 after notching a goal in three straight games this season.
-Freshman forward Heather Donais leads the team in assists with five. She is one assist away from tying the ninth-best single season assists record in NAU history. As of Oct. 16, her assists per game at 0.42 is ranked 65th in the country.
-10 different Lumberjacks have scored for NAU this season: Mei-Te Coco (sophomore), Malia Lyken (freshman), Anna Goebel (junior), Amanda Bennett (freshman), Riley Porter (junior), Shelbie O'Connor (freshman), Carly Gamble (redshirt freshman), Ali Lixandru (senior), Doyle (senior) and Nixt (junior).
-Dating back to 1997, NAU is 17-21-44 in overtime games. The highest number of overtime games in a single season came in 2011 with nine. This year, the Lumberjacks have had five overtime games, posting a 2-0-3 record compared to last season's 1-2-4 overtime record.
-Northern Arizona has never won more than two overtime games in a season. The last time the 'Jacks won two overtime games was in 2014.
Date: Friday, Oct. 21
Time: 3 p.m. MST
The Vandals are 8-4-3 this season and sit atop the Big Sky standings with a 5-1-1 conference record. Eastern Washington, who NAU just beat, is Idaho's only conference loss, but Weber State also gave them a run for their money as that game ended in a double overtime tie. Idaho has been strong at home this season posting an unbeaten 3-0-1 record in Moscow. Northern Arizona has only played Idaho three times in program history, but is still searching for its first win over the Vandals.
"Idaho is an athletic and experienced team," Luciano said. "They will play really well at home so we just have to match their intensity and realize their fans will play a factor. We have to stick to our specific game plan and try to capitalize on our own opportunities."
Averaging two goals per game as a team, Idaho's scoring offense ranks 46th in the country and is tied for first in the Big Sky. The Vandals also lead the league in total assists and total points this season. Elexis Schlossarek has made the most noise offensively tallying 17 points – six goals and five assists – in 15 games. Three other Vandals have double-digit points this season including Kavita Battan, Emma Eddy and Clara Gomez. Eddy also has six goals in nine games played while Battan has five.
Date: Sunday, Oct. 23
Time: 12 p.m. MST
Idaho State currently holds the fourth place spot, two above NAU, in the Big Sky standings. The Bengals have proved the doubters wrong this season as they were picked to finish last in the preseason polls but are 7-10 this season and 4-3 in conference action. They are coming off a 1-0 victory over Weber State and will face Southern Utah the Friday (Oct. 21) before Northern Arizona comes to town.
"Coach Gibson is a fighter and her teams are always that way," Luciano noted. "They are on a good roll right now and definitely have something going in the right direction. It will be two equally tough games this weekend, so we will go out there and try to qualify for a conference tournament berth."
Michaela Didericksen and Nikolina Musto have seven and six goals, respectively, this season, but eight other Bengals have scored at least one of ISU's 24 total goals on the year. In the Big Sky rankings, Idaho State finds themselves among the top five in multiple offensive categories; most notably, the Bengals lead the league in shot attempts with 16.88 per game and are third in shots on goal per game at 6.94.
It's no secret that the 'Jacks graduated a bulk of their starters including four All-Big Sky selections from 2015. But with change, comes new opportunity. With seniors like Dani Muniz and Lindsay Doyle, as well as redshirt junior Missy Kettelkamp, there still is no shortage of experience for NAU.
Muniz appeared in all 19 games last season at defender while Doyle appeared in 18. At forward, Doyle strung together a solid junior season scoring four goals – tied for second on the team with Adrian Nixt – and two assists for 10 points. Kettelkamp, too, brings a strong mix of experience to the table after proving in 2015 she can defend and put the ball in the back of the net.
Given that 26 players of NAU's 36-player roster are underclassmen, the growth ahead is inevitable. With 15 freshmen aboard the Lumberjack train – 12 newcomers and three redshirts – Luciano and his squad are bound and determined to use what's in front of them as an advantage. Without any one, star player to rely on, Luciano summed up his expectations for this year's team in one word: united.