The women’s soccer team at Northern Arizona University won nine games this season without a real go-to scorer on offense. The Lumberjacks liked to refer to their system this season as “offense by committee” since nine different players contributed goals.
But that system didn’t hold up in the Big Sky Conference Championships when they managed just seven shots in the first-round game against Montana, only two of those on target. They fell to the Grizzlies, 1-0, to end the season.
After the game, NAU head coach Andre Luciano said he was proud of the team and how far the players had come this season. “I do not think today is a reflection of our season,” he said, “and the future is bright for NAU soccer.’
Now, it turns out that bright future will have to unfold without Luciano. Last week he resigned his position after 18 years directing the program and, in the process, had become the winningest coach in the history of Big Sky soccer. He leaves with a 149-150-52 record.
The native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, submitted his resignation to NAU Athletic Director Mike Marlow in a letter that Marlow then shared with the NAU community. No reason was given for the sudden move.
Luciano attended Yavapai College in Prescott as a student and said he fell in love with the Flagstaff area during that time and welcomed the opportunity when a coaching job opened at NAU. He was an assistant coach at University of Arizona when the school hired him in the spring of 2001.
He enjoyed his most successful times with the program in recent years. Luciano won three Big Sky Conference championships in 2008. 2009. and 2014, and was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year in consecutive seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Last year’s squad finished with a 9-10-1 overall record and this season came back with identical wins in posting a 9-4-4 record overall and 5-1-3 record in conference. The ‘Jacks tied for fifth in the Big Sky last year and came in fourth this season.
This year he was working with a roster that included 22 returning players, seven of whom had started in more than half of the previous season’s games, and a group of 10 incoming freshmen.
Luciano spoke enthusiastically about the program he ran for almost two decades, often talking about having one of the best sports atmospheres in the conference. He frequently pointed to the attendance records the program had set through the years and how the soccer stadium was one of the ‘most beautiful’ in the country.
That had to be hard to walk away from. But, according to Marlow, in his resignation letter Luciano “had expressed a sense of excitement to pursue other opportunities.”
Luciano said he left with no regrets. But there are probably regrets on the side of his players, who probably would have appreciated getting the news directly from their coach. As far as we know, he didn’t share his decision with his players before they disbanded at the end of the season.
A letter to the AD just doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to close out 18 years.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)