AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific built itself a 2-0 lead for the fifth consecutive game, and the Cougars snapped a rare home losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Point Loma Nazarene Saturday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
Junior forward Vinicius Dantas used a deft touch to finish a long pass from junior defender Davis Delamarter in the 13th minute for Azusa Pacific’s first goal, and senior forward Alex Earlprovided the game-winner with a 25th-minute penalty kick.
“We have a team that is dynamic in the attack, and we’ve had a number of different players score this year.” Cougar head coach Dave Blomquist said. “We’ve got a lot of players that can finish in the attacking half, and because we move the ball well, we create chances. To be able to get leads in games is a great sign for a team, and the maturity of the team showed today by being able to hold on to it.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Joe Geletko was sharp again, making 4 saves for the Cougars, who had suffered consecutive 1-goal defeats at home to Kansas Wesleyan and Vanguard prior to Saturday’s win by the same margin. Azusa Pacific’s last back-to-back home losses came early in the 2003 season, and the Cougars had not lost 3 straight at home since 1990.
“Point Loma showed a great deal of resolve to stay with the game, and they fought to the very end,” Blomquist said. “I felt like we answered everything they threw forward. Joe came up with some big saves, and our back four did a good job of cutting everything out that they could in front of them.”
Geletko turned away a dangerous Point Loma chance with the game still scoreless in the first 10 minutes, knocking the ball away from Sea Lions forward Austin Fares in the box with a well-timed slide tackle in the eighth minute. Less than 5 minutes later, Delamarter led Dantas into the box, forcing Point Loma’s starting goalkeeper Keith Cline to commit to the attacker away from the goal. Dantas touched it past Cline at the top of the box to give the Cougars an early 1-0 lead and extend his goal-scoring streak to 4 games.
With Azusa Pacific threatening again in the 25th minute, a foul in the box set up Earl’s score from the penalty spot. The goal was Earl’s first of the 2010 season to go with his 5 assists thus far, and it provided the final margin of the game to give him his sixth career game-winner.
“Alex has done a great job this year of helping us be a better team,” Blomquist said. “He hasn’t gotten caught up in putting a goal away himself – he has been more concerned with the team scoring goals and the team creating chances. That’s a great mentality for him to have, and with him wanting to step up and take the penalty today, that shows me that he’s going to score some more goals for us this year.”
In the closing minutes of the first half, Point Loma’s Paul Fuchs played a ball across the goal from the right side. Jeff Serbin finished it from 12 yards out with a shot to the near post, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 2-1 in the 43rd minute.
Azusa Pacific finished the game with a 13-9 edge in total shots, including a 7-4 second-half margin while protecting a 2-1 lead. A string of passes in the 86th minute between Earl, Michael Sahagian, and Brett Taylor resulted in a near-post strike off Taylor’s right foot that was stopped by goalkeeper Carter Phillips for 1 of his 5 saves.
“Today we managed the game a little bit better and recognized that we still were a goal up and were in a good spot if we could defend well and keep the ball,” Blomquist said. “Our (center backs) Robert James and Lucas Young did a great job of keeping our organization sharp defensively, and I thought all of our midfielders did a good job linking between the defenders and the strikers when we had the ball.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 9-2 overall with a 2-1 GSAC mark, and Point Loma Nazarene drops to 3-6 overall and 0-3 in GSAC play. The Cougars visit Concordia on Tuesday, Oct. 5, before hosting Biola and The Master’s in back-to-back home games.