FLAGSTAFF — Game day is coming up quick for the Northern Arizona University women’s soccer team. The Lumberjacks are two weeks into August and ready to kick off the 2017 season.
Last season, it came down to penalty kicks in the Big Sky Conference Championship after an eight-game unbeaten streak and this season, head coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks look to start fresh, compete and leave everything they have on the field.
“There is so much energy and focus from this team and I’m proud of the work they are putting in,” Luciano said. “I feel like we are in a really good place with a good mix of veterans and returners and the freshmen class has integrated themselves nicely into our program system of play.”
In seven days, Northern Arizona will travel to Texas to take on both Sun Belt opponent Texas State and American Athletic opponent the University of Houston. The Lumberjacks will start this season off differently by not competing in an exhibition game. Instead the team will jump right into the 2017 season against these two out-of-state opponents.
The ‘Jacks graduated a wealth of knowledge from the roster, including two All-Big Sky selections from 2016 in Lindsay Doyle and Missy Kettelkamp. But with seniors like top-scorer Adrian Nixt and forward Anna Goebel for the front line and Riley Porter a force to be reckoned with in the back line, the Lumberjacks bring back a number of veterans.
“We never look to replace our seniors, but we look to build starters and All-Conference selections,” Luciano said. “I’m confident in our returning players and I’m confident in our team’s ability to leave their own legacy.”
Nixt competed and started in all but one game last season picking up a season-high nine goals, five of which were game-winning goals.
An All-Conference first team selection Nixt finished tied for third in game-winning goals in a season, tied for sixth in shots in a season and tied for eighth in points in a season. Goebel left her mark coming off the bench competing in all but one game. With only one goal in the regular season, Goebel came alive in the conference tournament scoring three goals, two of which were game-winners.
NAU’s 36-women roster is comprised of 21 underclassmen including nine incoming freshmen. The Lumberjack squad is young, but they are a formidable bunch returning 15 letterwinners, three of which earned All-Conference nods. With 11 different goal-scorers last season, there is not any one star the blue and gold will rely on this year.
“Everyone comes in with a blank slate there are 11 spots on the field and 11 opportunities to come in, contribute and make an impact,” Luciano said. “This freshmen class has the ability to come in and compete immediately and by doing so, raise the level of the team overall.”
The Lumberjacks defense will return starting goalkeeper Meghan Dickmann and defenders Porter, Amanda Bennett and Alexis Moest. Last season, Dickmann finished with 101 saves with five shutouts. The veteran was named to the All-Tournament team last season and will return with 142 career saves — eighth in program history. Joining Dickmann will be Porter who notched three goals, an assist and five shots on goal last season as a defender.
The Lumberjacks were picked to finish No. 2 in the Big Sky preseason polls behind Eastern Washington. Northern Arizona will open up the conference season on the road in Moscow to take on Idaho on Sept. 22 before competing against the early favorites. The Lumberjacks will take on Eastern Washington in their second game of conference in Cheney on Sept. 24. The Lumberjacks will end their conference matchups against Sacramento State on Oct. 27 in California.
“The conference gets better and better every year,” Luciano said. “As a whole the Big Sky finished Top 15 in the nation.”