NAU kicked off a weekend on the road as they first headed to Los Angeles, California as they played the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans Sept. 6. The Trojans found their rhythm early in the second half and took control the rest of the game, defeating the Lumberjacks 3-0 during Friday afternoon’s matchup.
The Lumberjacks came into this game off a 4-0 shutout win against the University of Detroit Mercy Sept. 1, and leading the Big Sky conference standings with a 2-0-1 record. They faced a truly talented competitor in the Trojans, ranked fourth in the Pac-12 conference and home to the Pac-12 leading scorer junior forward Tara McKeown.
The Big Sky leader came out poised and ready to react quickly against the Trojans, keeping their defense tight and forcing USC to take outside shots, giving them little opportunity for an easy goal throughout the first half.
Junior forward Paige Maling had an early chance to take the lead in the 14th minute but could not get her shot on target. Maling came into the game as the Offensive Player of the Week in the Big Sky conference for her performance against the University of Detroit Mercy the game before.
Sophomore forward Madison Montgomery had another shot in the 35th minute that would go over top post and out of bounds.
"[NAU] needs to be a little more confident and comfortable on the ball and make better decicions," head coach kylie Louw said. "There were times where we had the ball and could've made better decicions to help our attack. When you have to defend this kind of team and you have the ball, you have to use it and make it productive."
NAU was keeping up. The Lumberjacks struggled to find shots but put up a strong defense, keeping themselves in the game and holding the Trojans to just three shots on goal to finish the first half.
However, in the second half USC exploded out of the gate scoring in the first 37 seconds. USC sophomore forward Penelope Hocking charged downfield and swiftly kicked the ball just inside the far-left post to put the Trojans up 1-0 merely seconds into the start of the half.
The Pac-12 scoring leader McKeown proved her title by forcing one just past NAU junior goalkeeper Taryn Benham in the 67th minute, which extended her scoring streak to five games in a row.
After McKeown’s score, she was taken off the field and followed by senior forward Taylor McMorrow who decided she wanted in on the action as well. She added the third and final goal of the game in the 82nd minute to seal the win against the Lumberjacks 3-0.
"[NAU] did a very good job of competing," Louw said. "They just went out there and competed, played hard and fought for every ball."
The Lumberjacks were handed their first loss this season with Friday’s 3-0 shut out. The team will travel north of Los Angeles to Stockton to play the 0-5 University of the Pacific Tigers Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. MST.
"Our motto is that we have to reaim and reprepare to win every single game," Louw said. "We prepared [this week] to play and beat USC as part of our plan, and now tonight we're preparing for the University of Pacific. It's really that simple."