FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team will honor its six seniors on Friday, Oct. 28, against Southern Utah as they make one final push for a Big Sky Tournament berth. Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks are coming off a strong weekend in Idaho and currently sit in a tie for fourth in the conference standings. Just three teams are locked in for the postseason thus far, but a win over the Thunderbirds guarantees a ticket to the Big Sky Championships.
"The best way we can honor our seniors is to go out and be focused," Luciano said. "We have to understand that there is a bigger component than just senior night, because there are a lot of implications behind the game Friday. The most important thing for us is to come out with the same approach that we've had for the last three weeks and have one of our best performances in front of our home crowd for the last time this season."
-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 made her way into the NAU record books as she now has 121 career saves (eighth) with 80 of them coming in 2016.
-As of Oct. 25, junior forward Adrian Nixt is 12th 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 (ninth) with 42 and NAU's Top 10 (seventh) in career goals with 17.
-In NAU all-time single 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.
-11 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), Madeline Waszak (sophomore), Doyle (senior) and Nixt (junior).
-Dating back to 1997, NAU is 17-21-45 in overtime games. The highest number of overtime games in a single season came in 2011 with nine. This year, the Lumberjacks have had six overtime games, posting a 2-0-4 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. 28
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Coverage: Fox Sports Arizona
Game promotions: Native American Heritage Game; Breast Cancer Awareness (Pink) Game; First 250 fans will receive a rally towel; First 50 students receive a Raising Canes free meal voucher.
Southern Utah will have nothing to lose upon making the trip to Flagstaff. The Thunderbirds have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason and are 10th in the Big Sky Standings. At 3-11-2 overall and 2-6-1 in conference action, the T-birds have still disrupted some high-caliber opponents. Southern Utah's two Big Sky wins came over Portland State and most recently Idaho State, but they also tied second place Eastern Washington 3-3 in double overtime. Ally Thimsen, who recently recorded a hat trick in SUU's win over Idaho State, leads the team with seven goals and one assist this season.
Big Sky Tournament Rundown
During Big Sky play, teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss. After the final game of the regular season, the team with the highest number of total accumulated points wins the regular season. Only the top six teams qualify for the tournament.
Idaho, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State are all locked in for the Big Sky Championships, which means there are three other spots up for grabs with Friday's (Oct. 28) games being the deciding factor. Idaho is in first place in the standings with 20 points and Eastern Washington and Sacramento State are in a tie for second place with 17 points. Next in the standings, at 15 points, are the Lumberjacks and Montana in a tie for fourth place.
Northern Arizona would technically be fourth as of right now, however, and Montana fifth since the Lumberjacks win the tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head; since Montana and NAU tied, the tiebreaker between the two squads becomes a matter of points against other teams in descending order. Therefore, since NAU tied Idaho (who is first in the standings) and earned one point, and Montana lost to Idaho earning zero points, NAU wins the tiebreaker.
Seeding – Northern Arizona could be as high as the No. 2 seed with a win over Southern Utah (but only if both Eastern Washington and Sacramento State lose) and finish as low as seventh. If NAU wins, and both EWU and Sacramento State win, the Lumberjacks would be seeded No. 4 for the tournament.
A win – This would make things easy if NAU walks away with three points versus the Thunderbirds. This would bump the 'Jacks to 18 points, and regardless of the outcomes of the other games, Northern Arizona would automatically qualify for a Big Sky Tournament berth.
A tie – The tournament is definitely not ruled out with a tie, either. This could still mean a No. 4 seed but only if Montana ties or loses and Northern Colorado and Portland State both tie or lose. A tie would put the Lumberjacks at 16 points, which means there could potentially be a three or four-way tie for the final three spots. Northern Arizona would win the tiebreakers between both Portland State and Montana.
A loss – With a loss, the 'Jacks could still make the top six. The only way they could be edged out is if the following all three occur: Montana wins or ties, Northern Colorado wins and Portland State wins. Even if just one of those teams has a loss or a tie on Friday, Northern Arizona's current 15 points would be enough to finish in the top six.
The Final Stand – Oct. 28
Sacramento State @ Portland State
Idaho State @ Idaho
North Dakota @ Northern Colorado
Southern Utah @ Northern Arizona
Montana @ Eastern Washington
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.