AZUSA, Calif. -- Not even an unseasonably chilly September afternoon could cool off Azusa Pacific’s offense, as the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Cougars exploded for a 5-0 win over Pomona-Pitzer Wednesday at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
Junior forward Vinicius Dantas scored his third straight game-winner, finding the back of the net just a few ticks past the 10-minute mark to get the offense rolling. His score was the first of 3 first-half scores, and the Cougars added back-to-back scores less than a minute apart in the second half to come up with the final 5-goal tally. It was Azusa Pacific’s fourth straight game scoring at least 4 goals, and it was the second time the Cougars had done so against a team that won its conference title last season (Holy Names – California Pacific; Pomona-Pitzer – SCIAC).
Just 2 minutes after Dantas’ early go-ahead strike, senior midfielder Ashkon Banihashemi took Oktay Bulut’s cross from the left touch line. Banihashemi delivered a well-timed, perfectly-placed shot between goalkeeper Rollie Thayer and another Pomona-Pitzer defender inside the right post to push the lead to 2-0 just over 12 minutes into the game.
Despite a morning mist, the field was mostly dry by the time of the 4 p.m. kickoff, but the temperature reached only into the high 60s, well below what early-September usually averages in the mid-80s locally, and a chilly breeze made it feel even cooler. Not only did the weather fail to stifle the Cougar attack, it did little to dampen the spirits of a moderately-sized but vocal section of Azusa Pacific students who began fall semester classes earlier in the day.
In the 30th minute, Bulut placed the finish into an empty net after senior midfielder Brett Taylor’s advance into the box forced Thayer to commit to stopping him, leaving Bulut with a defender in his wake heading towards the open goal. Taylor placed the ball right into Bulut’s stride from 6 yards out, making it a 3-0 lead that held up through halftime.
In the 58th minute, Taylor got on the board himself, drilling a 22-yard volley into the net to finish off a pass from Dantas at the top of the box. Freshman midfielder Steven Shiokari, a substitute who entered during the stoppage following Taylor’s goal, needed just 32 seconds to score a goal himself. He collected a pass from sophomore midfielder Trenton Titus in the top left corner of the box, and then buried a 15-yard strike from the left inside the far post to make it a 5-0 margin.
In addition to its 5 different goal scorers, Azusa Pacific also had 5 players who registered assists. Titus, who assisted Dantas’ first-half goal, led them all with 2 assists, and junior defender Davis Delamarter was credited with an assist with his pass that led Bulut to the touch line for the cross to Banihashemi.
The Cougars finished with a 24-6 advantage in shots, firing 16 times at the Pomona-Pitzer goal in the second half. Sophomore goalkeeper Joe Geletko notched a pair of second-half saves before giving way to freshman Scott Kinney for the final 11 minutes of scoreless play. The combined shutout was Azusa Pacific’s third clean sheet of the season, and the only goals scored on the Cougars in the past 7 halves of soccer have come on a pair of penalty kicks.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 5-0 on the season, while Pomona-Pitzer drops to 0-2. The Cougars are back in action on Saturday, Sept. 11, hosting Kansas Wesleyan at 1 p.m. at the Cougar Soccer Complex in the final home game prior to a Sept. 25 matchup with Vanguard that marks the start of Golden State Athletic Conference play.