NAU Women's soccer entered Sunday's game against the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds. The Lumberjacks are on a two-game winning streak against a Thunderbirds squad that has yet to win a game this season, standing at 0-8. Head coach Kylie Louw looked to start Big Sky play on the right foot. Coaching in her first conference game, the Lumberjacks defeated the Thunderbirds 3-2.
The Lumberjacks came out in an aggressive fashion, scoring in just the 3rd minute when Junior Paige Maling squeezed the ball under the Thunderbirds freshmen keeper Isabella Whitmore for her fourth goal of the season. Following the goal, the game would become a battle in the midfield with Southern Utah looking more comfortable. Both teams would get chances but failed to capitalize.
NAU had a series of chances between the 20th and 25th minute, putting pressure on goal but never putting one past Whitmore despite numerous promising opportunities. NAU junior forward Kylie Kapustka would score the second goal off a freekick, her second of the season. Southern Utah would answer quickly with redshirt senior forward MaKenzie Lawrence finding her way past the Lumberjack defense and putting one under junior keeper Taryn Benham.
The Lumberjacks started the second half vigorously, but the Southern Utah defense held sturdy. The first chance of the half would come in the 60th minute when senior forward Tatum Heeres snuck past two defenders and arced a shot off the post and into the back of the net.
“I heard Kayla calling out wide for it, she did a perfect job drawing a defender," Heeres said. "I was able to just cut in and saw that the back post was open so I took the shot.”
The referee awarded a penalty to Southern Utah for a foul on NAU sophomore defender Sydney Nickell. The Thunderbirds freshman midfielder Madison DeHerrera would capitalize and put the win in jeopardy for the Lumberjacks in the final ten minutes. Despite Southern Utah keeping the Lumberjack goal under duress, the Thunderbirds couldn’t seal the deal.
“Our players just did an awesome job of finding a way to win, and we did scoring three goals,” Louw said following the win. “We let in two goals, which I'm not excited about ... you have to score more than the other team and that's what we did.”
NAU will hit the road again Oct. 4 when they travel to face California State University, Sacramento Hornets, which proved difficult for the team last time around, losing four of their last five road games this season.
“I think we're in a different place,” Louw said. “Its conference and the players are used to that, they've been to these places before so well just have to take it on the chin and prepare and make sure we're ready to compete.”