LA MIRADA, Calif. -- Senior midfielder Brandon Stirm scored goals in each half to help the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific give head coach Phil Wolf his 100th career win with Saturday night’s 2-0 road victory at Biola.
“It’s all about these guys,” said Wolf. “(The milestone) doesn’t matter – what matters is these guys and what they’re doing, with the performances they’re putting in day in and day out, game in and game out. They’re just putting their best foot forward, and it’s all about them.”
The win, which came in Wolf’s 138th game and in his seventh season as a head coach at Azusa Pacific, extended the Cougars’ season-opening win streak to 13 games, the best start to a season in program history and 1 victory shy of tying the program’s overall winning streak record of 14 set in 1997.
“Phil’s an unbelievable guy, both on and off the field,” said Stirm, 1 of 4 seniors who have spent all 4 years of collegiate soccer playing for Wolf at Azusa Pacific. “He relates really well to players, and I think all the players have a really good personal relationship with him. He’s a good man to look up to, and in terms of both character and soccer, he’s the best coach I’ve ever played for.”
Azusa Pacific dominated possession throughout the game, generating an 18-7 advantage in shots, and Stirm capitalized midway through the first half when a ball bounced out to Stirm in the penalty area after Steven Lenhart’s point-blank strike from the right side was saved by Biola goalkeeper Tyler Higgins. Stirm sent the rebound sailing into the back of the net to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Stirm added an insurance goal with just under 5 minutes to play in the game, finding the back of the net again from the top of the penalty box, giving him 5 goals in the past 5 games. Senior midfielder Ryan Cheek earned the assist, taking the ball up the wide left before finding Stirm in the middle of the field outside the penalty area.
“Every shot I’m taking seems to go in right now,” said Stirm. “I didn’t feel that I started the season slow, but things just weren’t going my way. Everything seems to be falling for me now, and the ball keeps coming my way.”
Junior goalkeeper James Crawford made 3 saves en route to his 7th shutout of the season, the Cougars’ 10th in 13 games this season. Crawford has not had to make more than 5 saves in any of his 7 cleansheets.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 6-0 in Golden State Athletic Conference play, where it trails the NAIA’s top-ranked Concordia, which is unbeaten in 7 conference contests this season. The Cougars, who host Concordia next Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Cougar Soccer Complex, improve to 13-0 overall on the season, while Biola drops to 2-5 in conference play, 6-9 overall.