COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Back-to-back goals less than 4 minutes apart late in the opening half lifted the NAIA’s top-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 2-1 road victory over Vanguard Saturday afternoon, completing the first-ever unbeaten regular season in Cougar men’s soccer history.
Only 1 other Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team made it to the final game of the regular season without tasting defeat, but that 2004 squad suffered a 4-3 home loss to Point Loma Nazarene in the regular-season finale. That particular team advanced to the NAIA Tournament and post the program’s first-ever national tournament victory.
The Cougars faced an early hole after Vanguard’s Andrew Elliott scored unassisted just 3-and-a-half minutes into the contest. Junior defender Beau Hayden, who scored the game-winner in another come-from-behind win over The Master’s earlier in the year, drilled the equalizer with less than 6 minutes remaining in the opening half.
With just under 2 minutes left before halftime, senior midfielder Kolt Callaway collected the ball in the middle from a Jared Karkas pass, then firing to the upper right corner. The ball was tipped by Vanguard goalkeeper Trevor Herrera but remained on course to give Azusa Pacific a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.
Of his 3 goals this season, Callaway has tallied a pair of game-winners, including a “golden goal” just a minute into the second overtime of a 1-0 non-conference victory over Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo.).
Junior goalkeeper James Crawford earned the shutout, making 1 second-half save to preserve the 12th cleansheet produced by the Cougars this season.
With the win, Azusa Pacific heads into the postseason with a 9-0-1 GSAC mark and a 16-0-1 overall record. Vanguard drops to 4-5 GSAC, 9-6 overall. The Cougars will host Westmont in the first round of the NAIA Region II Playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Cougar Soccer Complex.