The Northern Arizona women's soccer team clinched a spot in the Big Sky Conference Championship tournament as the No. 5 seed after a 1-1 result, and first tie of the season, against Sacramento State Friday afternoon. The Lumberjacks advance to postseason action in Cheney as the Eastern Washington Eagles will host the conference tournament.
Northern Arizona fought for the win, garnering more saves, fouls and corner kicks than the Hornets. Senior Adrian Nixt delivered the lone goal of the game for the Lumberjacks in the 16th minute after stealing the ball outside of the 18-yard box.
With a 1-0 lead going into the half, the Lumberjacks were looking to finish it off with another shot from Nixt that bounced off the crossbar into the goalkeeper's hands.
With her seventh goal this year, Nixt remains at the top of the Lumberjack roster in goals scored this season, also picking up two more points to total 19 going into postseason play.
Sacramento State's goal came in the 68th minute after a foul in the box awarded freshman Kylee Kim-Bustillos her 11th goal this season, bringing her total points to 26 — the most in the Big Sky.
The Lumberjacks held off the Hornets for the remainder of regulation and throughout two overtime periods to solidify the tie. With 110 minutes of soccer and seven games under her belt, freshman Taryn Benham recorded six saves to help keep Northern Arizona in contention.
Northern Arizona will compete in the tournament starting Wednesday against No. 4 Portland State at 1 p.m. The Lumberjacks are among six teams to make the tournament: Eastern Washington, Montana, Northern Colorado, Portland State and Sacramento State.
The Northern Arizona cross country teams look to defend their Big Sky titles with the running of the conference championships Saturday at Riverside Golf Course.
Both teams enter the weekend as heavy favorites as the defending champions. The men's team has been close to perfect this season, and enters the meet as the No. 1 team in the country, a ranking they have held for a school-record 12 straight weeks dating back to last season. The NAU women are coming off a strong showing at Pre-Nationals, and earned the No. 26 spot in the country, the first time the team has cracked the national rankings since 2009.
The women's 5k championship race will take off at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the men's championship race at 11:45 a.m. The awards ceremony to crown the conference champions will follow at approximately 12:30 p.m.
On the men's side, Northern Arizona has won 24 of the past 33 conference titles dating back to 1984, including nine of the past 10. The Lumberjacks have the most conference championships in Big Sky cross country history.
NAU will be running Matt Baxter, Cade Burks, Tyler Day, Cory Glines, Luis Grijalva, Harvey Nelson, Andy Trouard and Ryan Wolff.
The women have won two of the past three championships and also have the most titles in conference history.
The Lumberjacks will be racing Pipi Eitel, Paige Gilchrist, Kylie Goo, Emma Keenan, Mikayla Malaspina, Miranda Myers, Delaney Rasmussen and Emily Roughan.
As a program, Northern Arizona has swept the Big Sky Championships in two of the past three years, and 15 times overall in program history.
Fans will be able to watch the event live off of Weber State's Facebook page and can also follow along with the live results of the race online.
SWIM AND DIVE
The Northern Arizona swimming and diving team will open their dual meet season Saturday at 11 a.m. with New Mexico in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The meet will be free for all fans to attend, and all fans will receive a pink rally towel during the Lumberjacks' Wipe Out Cancer meet for breast cancer awareness.
"They're as good as they've been, and probably even better in some areas," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns. "We're definitely going to be tested. With it being the first home meet of the season, it's exciting, and that always helps raise the level a little. It's going to be great competition and we're really going to find out a lot about who we are and what we have."
The Lumberjacks will try to get on the right side of the scoreboard in their season-opening dual as the Lobos have claimed the last three head-to-head meetings. Last season, New Mexico handed NAU a 156.5-140.5 loss in Albuquerque, N.M. with the Lumberjacks winning a total of five events.
The Lumberjacks are equipped to end their three-meet skid to the Lobos with a balanced lineup of swimmers led by senior Alina Staffeldt and fellow seniors Claire Hammond, Roni Houck and Kimmy Richter – who combined for 18 All-WAC honors last season. An upperclassman-heavy diving unit featuring NCAA Championships qualifier junior Tatiana Kurach, junior Christina Torrente and Raquel Gonzales is also in good position going into Saturday's opener.
Among those who did not compete against the Lobos last season and will be part of NAU's lineup this weekend are redshirt junior Monique King and freshmen Niamh McDonagh, Sam Milewski, Sarah O'Connor and Elisa Rodriguez.