LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Northern Arizona soccer team got a strong effort in from freshman goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson in her first career game, but UNLV struck for two first-half goals to hand the Lumberjacks a season-opening 2-0 defeat.
“We came out a little too tentative to press them,” said NAU coach Andre Luciano. “We gave them way too much space, and they made us pay for it. I thought in the second half we came out a little more assertive going forward, and we had some opportunities. I thought it was a fair second half.”
The Rebels were the aggressors from the onset, consistently putting pressure on the Lumberjacks with five shots in the first 25 minutes. In the 26th minute, Alexis Peterson sent a lead pass over the NAU backline to Jenn Wolfe, who beat Gilbertson in a one-on-one situation to the top-right corner.
Less than five minutes later, in the 31st minute, UNLV converted on a corner kick by Julie Owens for its second goal of the game. Owens sent the corner in front of the net, where Addy Guida headed in the home team’s second goal of the game. The Rebels took a 2-0 lead into halftime, and it held up for the rest of the game.
Although the Lumberjacks were unable to find the back of the net in the second half, they played the Rebels evenly in the final 45 minutes. After UNLV took an 11-1 shot advantage into the intermission, the Lumberjacks held the Rebels to just four shots in the second half while putting up four shots of their own. NAU had its first scoring opportunity just two minutes into the half, when sophomore Diane Buzzard’s header off a corner kick from redshirt freshman Malia Tano sailed wide of the net.
Freshman Haley Wingender totaled the final three NAU shots of the half, including a shot from 20 yards out that went just right of the net in the 73rd minute. She had another opportunity less than two minutes later that also went wide.
Despite allowing the two first-half goals, Gilbertson, a Las Vegas native, had a strong collegiate debut, recording six saves.
“The first goal, we had a breakdown in the backline and (Wolfe) scored on a one-on-one, and there wasn’t much Natalie could’ve done about that,” Luciano said. “On the second goal, we left a mark open and there wasn’t much she could do, either. But she came up big in some situations, and I thought it was a good performance for a freshman.”
Wingender, a native of nearby Henderson, Nev., led the Lumberjacks with three shots. Buzzard had one shot, while freshman Nicole Sherwin had the team’s lone first-half shot.
“I think we battled in the second half and woke up from our nap in the
first half,” Luciano said. “The freshmen know what to expect, and our
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upperclassmen saw what our younger players can do. We’re going to move
forward with confidence.”
NAU makes its home debut next Friday, Aug. 24, hosting Arizona State at Lumberjack Stadium at 7 p.m. NAU will then host Arizona on Sunday, Aug. 26, at noon. It will be the first time the the Lumberjacks will have hosted both of their in-state Pac-12 rivals in the same season.