Michael Smith, the director for cross country and track and field at Northern Arizona, has been named the Big Sky Conference coach of the year for both the women's and men's sides.
This is Smith's 12th time receiving the conference recognition. It is also the 26th time a Lumberjacks coach has won the men's cross country version of the award and the 20th time on the women's side.
It is the third straight men's honor for Smith, who recently led the crews to a sweep of the Big Sky championships last weekend in Greeley, Colorado.
Smith also coached true freshman Drew Bosley to a first-place finish in the men's race, which helped earn the Wisconsin native the conference's male athlete of the year and male freshman of the year awards.
"I believe that Mike is the best coach in the NCAA," Lumberjacks assistant coach Jarred Cornfield said. "The way he operates, the attention to detail and the care for all the people around him is unmatched. He is so genuine; it is always easy to be happy for him when he receives these awards because he truly deserves them."
The men's and women's cross country teams are currently preparing for the NCAA Division I Mountain Regionals in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 15.
The Lumberjacks take on New Mexico at the Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit today to open the season. The game is set for a 7 p.m. start.
"We're headed into a tough environment for opening night and they played on Tuesday, so they have the opening jitters out of the way," Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne said. "But we're excited and we feel like we match up pretty well with them. We feel like if we play well, we absolutely can compete with them. It's exciting to finally get out and play someone else besides our scout guys and scrimmaging each other."
The Lumberjacks and Lobos will meet for the second consecutive season. Last season in the Walkup Skydome, New Mexico earned an 84-55 victory, which marked the Lobos' seventh consecutive win over the Lumberjacks. NAU last defeated New Mexico, 73-70, Jan. 1, 1996 and the Lumberjacks have only notched one win in Albuquerque in 16 all-time visits.
Northern Arizona was picked eighth in both the Big Sky Preseason Coaches and Media Polls after finishing eighth last season. The Lumberjacks return 12 players, including redshirts, from last season's team that posted a 13-18 overall record and an 8-12 mark in league play.
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Despite losing one of the program's all-time greats, Kaleigh Paplow, the Jacks return four starters in junior Khiairca Rasheed, redshirt juniors Jacey Bailey and Caitlin Malvar, and sophomore Regan Schenck. The four Lumberjacks combined to start 100 games last season.
Rasheed is NAU's leading returning scorer and rebounder with 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Bailey averaged 11.5 points per game and led the team with 50 three-pointers, while Malvar led the Lumberjacks with 102 assists and Schenck averaged 7.9 points per game as a true freshman.
Also returning for the Jacks are junior Lauren Orndoff, who started all 14 games she appeared in last season prior to encountering a season-ending medical issue, and senior Peyton Carroll, who started 10 games and appeared in all 31. Orndoff was in the midst of a breakout season, averaging 10.1 points per game and shooting 42.5 percent behind the arc. Carroll averaged 6.7 points per game and shot a team-high 45.8 percent from the field.
NAU's depth will be a key component to its success this season as the Lumberjacks have all 15 players eligible on the roster for the first time in Payne's tenure as head coach. The Lumberjacks are hoping to receive boosts from graduate student Molly Rohrer and redshirt sophomore Nina Radford, who are both eligible this season, after redshirting last season as transfers. Rohrer, a two-time RMAC Player of the Year at CSU-Pueblo, is expected to provide a big presence in the post while Radford, a transfer from UC Santa Barbara, adds another scoring option to the roster.
New Mexico is already 1-0 this season following an 80-70 victory over UC Riverside at home Tuesday.
On Wednesday in California, Northern Arizona women's tennis pairing of sophomore Adrianna Sosnowska and freshman Mimi Bland continued to make noise as the pair posted a statement win in the first round of the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships.
Squaring off against Georgia's Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff -- seeded seventh and ranked No. 19 in the nation -- the Lumberjacks' pair carried their regional momentum into Wednesday's first round National Championships action at the Newport Beach Tennis Club. Sosnowska and Bland opened strong by taking the first set, 6-4, before dropping the second, 3-6. The match went to a tiebreaker where the Mountain Regional finalists prevailed and moved on with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 victory.
In doing so, Sosnowska and Bland notched their second nationally ranked win in as many tournaments and knocked off Georgia's tandem that previously recorded two top-10 wins this fall.
In the 64-player singles draw, senior Chiara Tomasetti went up against Stanford's Michaela Gordon, who was the No. 14 seed and ranked No. 6 nationally. Tomasetti battled her second top 10 opponent this season tough, but ultimately fell 6-4, 6-3.