LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- Under the picturesque ocean setting of Guyer Field at Laguna Beach High School, Azusa Pacific found the journey to redemption with a 3-0 win over the NAIA's No. 12-ranked Baker (Kan.) on Friday night.
Goals have been treated as a precious commodity in the early 2008 season. Through its first 5 games, Azusa Pacific had only scored 4 goals and entered Friday's contest with a scoreless streak of nearly 240 minutes. The Cougars, however, put together a dominating offensive performance with 3 first-half goals.
"It was a pretty big game for us for just the fact that we played a pretty tough schedule up to this point," said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf. "We haven't really seen a lot of great results."
Sophomore forward Alex Earl made the first strike toward the Wildcat goal in the 12th minute. Sophomore defender Brett Taylor was riding high on the left side of the goal box and crossed the ball over to Earl. Baker goalkeeper Alex Burton observed the cross but failed to react in time for Earl’s booming 5-yard rocket.
Sophomore midfielder Ashkon Banihashemi provided a follow-up scoring opportunity 9 minutes later in the 21st minute. Banihashemi was hovering in the Wildcat goal box, and he may have been in a position to make the score himself. However, he saw junior midfielder Dana Yoshizu coming in behind him and flicked a soft cross to the middle. Yoshizu fired away and put the Cougars up 2-0 on a Wildcat team which had only allowed 1 goal through its first 5 games.
After the early first-half scoring, a pair of yellow cards were issued to Baker players as the half was winding down and a red card was issued with one minute remaining in the half. Baker's red card set up a penalty kick for Cougar senior defender Jared Karkas, who made good on the chance. Azusa Pacific entered halftime with the 3-0 lead and its restored pride after energizing its offense for the first time in weeks.
The second half was mostly a defensive affair as the Cougars protected their lead and preserved the shutout.
“Tonight, it was good to get a good result," Wolf said. "The guys were wondering what was going on with the offense. To beat a team 3-0, it's a real step in the right direction for us."
Azusa Pacific snapped its 3-game winless streak and won by its biggest margin of victory in 12 games dating back to last season. Baker drops to 3-2-1 with the loss while the Cougars improve to 2-2-2 overall. Azusa Pacific will host Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) at the Cougar Soccer Complex on Saturday, Sept. 27 before breaking in the Golden State Athletic Conference schedule at home against No. 3-ranked Fresno Pacific on Tuesday, Sept. 30.