FRESNO, Calif. -- Steven Lenhart put away a perfect cross from Sven Simon just over 14 minutes into the Golden State Athletic Conference opener for the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific, and a stingy Cougar defense took care of the rest in a 1-0 road win over No. 6-ranked Fresno Pacific Tuesday evening.
Simon delivered a beautiful cross from the left side to Lenhart at the back post. Fresno Pacific goalkeeper Brandon Cave gave chase, but Lenhart had a bead on it. He beat Cave to the ball and headed it into the open goal for his eighth goal of the season.
“Sven dropped it right on Steve’s head,” said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf. “Those 2 are just fantastic. They bring so much to our team. They create chances for each other, and that’s a great sign of a good partnership.”
It was the Cougars’ third consecutive win by a 1-0 margin, and it extends Azusa Pacific’s program record for a season-opening winning streak to 8 games.
James Crawford made 1 save to preserve the shutout, his fifth of the season, and the junior goalkeeper extended his scoreless minutes streak to over 417 minutes. A Cougar defense anchored by center backs Eric Winblad and Mark Peters helped limit Fresno Pacific to 8 total shots, 4 of which deflected off Cougar defenders. The Sunbirds hit the post once and got 1 more shot to Crawford, an Amaury Nunes header in the sixth minute that was stopped by the Cougar goalkeeper.
“The back four was fantastic today, especially our central defenders,” said Wolf. “They are such instinctual players, and they’re really helping us produce shutouts. To shut out Amaury and those forwards – that s pretty big. Fresno Pacific is a very good team, and there’s no doubt they can play. It felt like a national tournament game, in terms of quality. It was a great game, a great chess match, with 2 very good teams playing the game the way it is supposed to be played.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific posts a victory in its fourth straight GSAC opener, improving to 1-0 in conference play, 8-0 overall. Fresno Pacific, which suffered a 3-1 road defeat last Saturday to unranked Point Loma Nazarene, faces an uphill road with an 0-2 start to conference play. The Sunbirds drop to 6-2-1 overall. The Cougars host the first of 3 straight home games when San Diego Christian visits the Cougar Soccer Complex Saturday, Sept. 29, in a 1 p.m. contest.