LA MIRADA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Azusa Pacific registered a 2-1 victory over No. 15-ranked Simon Fraser (B.C.) University Thursday afternoon, giving the Cougars’ new head coach Dave Blomquist an impressive win to start his collegiate head coaching career.
Faced with the distraction of barely 24 hours notice of a location and time change to the season opener due to poor air quality caused by smoke from the Morris fire in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, Blomquist’s charges responded with an early focus that produced a quick score from sophomore forward Cito Soriano just 89 seconds into the game. Senior defender Alejandro Ramos found Soriano over the top of the Simon Fraser defense, and the burly 6-foot-3 forward buried the game’s first shot into the net to give the Cougars a quick 1-0 lead on the artificial turf of Biola University’s Al Barbour Field in La Mirada.
Less than 5 minutes later, Simon Fraser was on the board when Roman Doutkevich’s low strike from the top of the penalty area directly at Cougar goalkeeper Tyler Stromberg. The shot trickled out of Stromberg’s clutching grab from the initial save before rolling across the goal line to tie the game at 1-1 in the seventh minute, issuing Blomquist his next coaching challenge.
Azusa Pacific responded with 5 consecutive shots over the next 20 minutes, but midway through the opening half, the Cougar offense went stagnant while Simon Fraser played the role of the aggressor through the rest of the opening half and into the first 5 minutes of the second half. In a 30-minute span, Azusa Pacific didn’t take a single shot while the Clan fired away 5 times at the Cougar goal, hardly an encouraging trend for a young head coach.
However, Blomquist didn’t betray any frustration or desperation through his calm sideline demeanor, and the halftime break helped settle Azusa Pacific before the Cougars broke through for another early score in the second half.
In the 51st minute, sophomore forward Vini Dantas finally ended the offensive drought, hauling in freshman midfielder Trenton Titus’s pass from the right side near the top of the penalty area before finding the back of the net at the far post from 13 yards out. For the next 40 minutes, Azusa Pacific successfully fought off Simon Fraser’s fast-paced attack, going nearly 25 full minutes without surrendering an official shot attempt before an 89th-minute strike saved by Stromberg.
With the win, Azusa Pacific avenges 1 of its 4 losses from the 2008 campaign, and the Cougars open the 2009 season with a 1-0 record. Simon Fraser drops to 2-1 on the year. Both teams will be back in Cougar Classic action on Saturday, August 29, with the tournament tentatively scheduled to return to Azusa Pacific’s Cougar Soccer Complex for 4 games of men’s and women’s soccer action.
Azusa Pacific wraps up the day at 5 p.m., hosting a Westminster (Utah) squad that suffered a 5-1 loss to Westmont Thursday afternoon in Cougar Classic action. Simon Fraser takes on Westmont in the 12:30 p.m. time slot, between women’s soccer games at 10:30 a.m. between California Baptist and Lee (Tenn.) and the 3 p.m. contest featuring Azusa Pacific’s No. 4-ranked women’s squad and No. 3-ranked Lindsey Wilson (Ky.).