No weather? No problem.
Instead, it was the defensive side of the ball that served as the Achilles’ Heel for the Lumberjacks as they threw away a 1-0 lead going into the second half and came out on the losing end against Utah Valley University 2-1 in overtime.
Clear skies on a gorgeous night in Orem, Utah set the stage for NAU to potentially nab their first win of the season as they took on Utah Valley University.
10 minutes in and repeats of Saturday’s loss showed as the Lumberjacks lacked cohesion and struggled on the defensive side of the ball, surrendering high-pace attacks and good chances to the Wolverines.
Freshman goalkeeper Natalie Manzo had her hands full as she made multiple saves early on, including a tricky, long-range ball from UVU sophomore midfielder Heather Stainbrook that nearly hit the crossbar and got behind Manzo, but Manzo got her hands on the ball to secure it and make the save.
Following the remarkable save, the Lumberjacks shifted momentum to their side as NAU’s defense began delivering passes to senior forward Madison Montgomery. The tables were turned on UVU as Montgomery moved further into Wolverine territory and began delivering dangerous crosses to her teammates.
However, these chances were thwarted by redshirt senior goalkeeper Brooklyn Nielsen as she made an aggressive save on a cross that would’ve found senior midfielder Rylee Mitchell wide open. Nielsen came out of the net to make the stop and even take a shot to her side.
With the Lumberjacks still riding a wave of momentum, Montgomery looked for Mitchell once again, but this time, the ball deflected off UVU redshirt sophomore Jenna Shepherd and found the back of the net for an NAU goal at 16’.
Due to the pace of the match intensifying as minutes continued to log, both NAU and UVU made multiple substitutions to keep their players from gassing out.
At 40’, UVU senior midfielder Breanna Dewaal was taken down in the box by sophomore defender Grace Quinn to set up a penalty shot for the Wolverines.
Sophomore defender Sydney Bushman was given the green light to take the shot at point-blank range, but similar to England’s showing at the end of the EURO Final in July, Manzo stuffed the shot from Bushman and the Lumberjacks held the lead into halftime.
Like a needle to a balloon, the momentum vanished in the blink of an eye for NAU as the second half became a pure showcase for Utah Valley.
Every minute, the Wolverines created opportunities for goals, but couldn’t find the back of the net and Manzo picked up another two saves in an awfully busy night for the freshman.
The dominance from UVU was catalyzed by tensions as well as a lack of discipline from all areas of NAU as head coach Kylie Louw and senior forward Sam Larberg picked up yellow cards. Utah Valley piled on the attack against the Lumberjacks and NAU finally caved at 72’. Stainbrook also effectively made up for her loud miss in the first half with a gritty goal after holding possession through a tackle.
More of the same came from UVU as they bullied NAU’s back line, but the Lumberjacks held firm and forced the match to OT.
With a five-minute rest, the Lumberjacks still didn’t make the proper adjustments to nuke the momentum from Utah Valley and they continued to have multiple opportunities to net a game-winning golden goal.
The golden moment came in the closing seconds of the first OT period as sophomore defender Nicole Olanda put up a beautiful ball toward the net and, to make up for her own goal in the first half, Shepherd timed a header perfectly to pick up the win for Utah Valley.
What was almost a steal of a draw or win for NAU, now sees the squad fall to 0-2 early in the season.
This marks the Lumberjacks’ first 0-2 start to a season since 2015 where they fell to in-state rivals Grand Canyon University and the University of Arizona.
The stat line will be an eyesore for NAU when they take a look as they were outshot 22-7 by Utah Valley (9-2 on shots on goal).
Manzo will be the lone bright spot of the night for the Lumberjacks as the freshman logged seven saves in the loss.
The schedule gets even tougher for NAU. They will have a pair of showdowns with Pac-12 schools as they head to UArizona on Friday at 7 p.m., then travel to Eugene, Oregon Sunday for a matinee showdown against the Ducks at 1 p.m.