GREELEY -- "There's no place like home," or as the Northern Colorado soccer team likes to say, "There's no place like Jackson Stadium." The Bears are now undefeated (with one tie) in its past six matches at its home territory. The team opened the 2013 home season on Friday night with its seventh straight victory over Air Force, 1-0.
"Every game that we've played over the past seven times [against Air Force], play has been just like (tonight's) game," head coach Tim Barrera said. "Pretty much every match is a whistle to whistle, back and forth match and tonight was a continuation of that. It's a good rivalry."
The match was full of action between the two. The difference in tonight's success came in who stood in front of the nets. The Bears' Natalie D'Adamio proved to be a brick wall tonight, not allowing any goals with six saves, including two clutch stops.
Makayla McBride and Danielle Birdsall tried attacking the Falcons' goalkeeper, Kelly Stambaugh, early. Both shots from the Bears missed wide, though. It wasn't until 32 minutes into the match that the first and only score was struck.
Junior defender Ambree Bellin controlled the ball on the right side of the field, sneaking the ball past her defender, deep into Air Force territory. The Fort Collins, Colo., native then kicked a lob pass towards a sea of defenders. In that sea was senior Chandler Guetz who found the ball and headed in the pass for her first goal of the season.
"Any time a team scores it can kind of deflate the opponent a little bit," Barrera said. "We ran a bunch of (substitutions) on after that. We really liked the energy we got from the bench players and I think it showed in that last part of the first half."
The rested Bears that were in for the remaining time used well-practiced ball control to manage time on the clock. The Falcons tried to make some scoring happen late in the first half with the few possessions it was able to obtain. About eight minutes after the Bears' goal, Air Force's Kristina O'Sullivan drilled a shot towards the net but was deflected by a Bears defender. The deflection was still on its way to the net until D'Adamio dove to the right to save it. The goalkeeper preserved the 1-0 score into halftime.
The second half saw more action in terms of shooting. Both teams put up six shots while the Bears totaled two on goal compared to the Falcons' four.
It was the 66th minute when D'Adamio made the second of her impressive saves. The Falcons' Leah Bratt had taken a pass past midfield on the left side. She was making her way up, charging towards the goal with defenders around as D'Adamio moved towards her. Bratt put up a shot while the 2012 Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year jumped to knock the ball away from the goal.
"(D'Adamio) is an experienced goalkeeper," Barrera said. "She's a little beat up but when it's gametime she comes out and performs. Natalie really came up big for us at the end."
The Falcons' attempted just two shots after that point, both in the final three minutes. One more save from D'Adamio and another wide shot ended the match in front of a crowd that had been vocal from the get-go. The Bears finished their 1-0 match to the applause of a welcoming home-opener crowd.
The focus now, with no remaining games over the weekend, is to get some fo the injured Bears back in the lineup.
"We have some experienced players that aren't playing right now," Barrera said. "In the end the [non-injured] players stepped up. I think it will help us down the line, when we get some of those players back we will be deeper, especially freshmen, with some real experience."
On the night the Bears totaled nine shots, three on goal. The Falcons shot nine times as well, with six on goal, though. Air Force had more corner kick opportunities with seven compared to the Bears' five. Each team recorded two offsides.
Northern Colorado looks to return next Friday at home with some well-rested student-athletes as it takes on New Mexico State.