NAU soccer returns home for 2 key Big Sky matches

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — After two weeks on the road, the Northern Arizona women’s soccer team (6-5-1, 1-1-1 Big Sky) will return to Lumberjack Stadium this weekend to face the Big Sky opponents Northern Colorado (8-5, 3-0) on Friday and North Dakota (4-6-1, 2-1) on Sunday. Friday’s game will start at 6 p.m. and can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona Plus, while Sunday’s match, set for noon, can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona.

"It’s going to be two teams fighting for valuable wins at this point in the season this weekend," head coach Andre Luciano said. "We’re excited to be at home for the first time in two weeks; that plays a big factor in conference."

After a 0-0 double overtime tie against Montana on Oct. 4, the Lumberjacks are 1-1-1 in the Big Sky after three consecutive  games on the road. Luciano likes what he sees so far.

"We’re not scoring as many goals as we had in non-conference, but we’ve tightened up defensively, and that’s a really important thing to do once conference starts. We’re limiting opponents to dangerous opportunities in front of goal and understanding how to play together defensively. That is something we have to continue to do in order to compete for a top four finish."

NAU remains the top scoring team in the conference, averaging 2.17 goals per game. Senior Haley Wingender has scored seven times, and sophomore Adrian Nixt has scored four.

Northern Colorado was picked to finish fourth in the conference but is off to a hot start, led by junior midfielder Kassy Castillo’s three goals. The Bears return 10 starters from last year’s team, including senior defender Adrienne Jordan, who earned co-defensive MVP and All-Big Sky First-Team honors.

North Dakota was picked last in the preseason polls but already has wins over Idaho State and Montana.  North Dakota returns six starters and has been bolstered by a strong freshman class that includes midfielder Kaylee Kebba, Veronica Kessler and Kennedy Kidd, each of whom has scored two goals.

"North Dakota is a much different team than we have seen the past two years," Luciano said. They have a lot of belief. It’s important for us to remain focused and understand we’re playing a completely different opponent than we did last year."