AZUSA, Calif.--Maybe they don’t say good things come in sixes, but the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team may want to change that, at least for today. The No. 6 Cougars got their sixth straight win thanks to Oktay Bulut’s sixth goal of the season in the 60th minute to improve to 6-1 on the season.
The team overcame some issues attacking with the final third, but held on to win thanks excellent play on the backline from seniors Lucas Young and Robert James, and junior keeper Joe Geletko’s third straight shutout.
“There were a couple significant moments…Joe made a fantastic save and that was key,” said Head Coach Dave Blomquist. “You can’t count on scoring a bunch of goals every match, so it’s important for us to place a high priority on [defense] and that starts with the keeper and extends to the entire team.”
In the programs’ third meeting, UC Santa Cruz came to Azusa with a 1-0-1 advantage, and looked to improve on that from the start. Banana Slug keeper Nate Levinson made a diving save on Trenton Titus’ shot in the 14th minute before stopping Bulut’s rebounded attempt for his first two saves of the contest.
Then in the 24th minute Santa Cruz’s Neal Hetzel slipped by the Cougar defense, received a pass, and created an open look from the right side (12 yards out), but the forward couldn’t bend it enough as it traveled just inches from the left post; leaving the match knotted at zeros.
In the 29th minute Bulut had another chance on a cross from Carlos Garcia-Partida, but the sophomore headed it over the bar. The back-and-forth affair continued as Hetzel bent it from 23 yards out (right side), launching it towards the upper-v before Geletko leapt just in time to get his hand on it, collecting his fourth save of the match.
Minutes later Bulut had a clear path to the goal, but was pulled down from behind two yards outside of the box, forcing the referee to issue Mackenzie Kelly a red-card. The play resulted in an indirect free kick for Bulut, but the forward couldn’t convert as his shot went high. The half ended with a 0-0 tie.
In the 57th minute Nathan Nienhuis had a really good opportunity inside the box off a cross from Garcia-Partida, but the junior couldn’t place it, sending it right of the target.
Moments later Garcia-Partida got tripped up by Levinson causing a penalty kick. Bulut got the nod for the third time this season and converted it to break the scoreless drought and give the Cougars the lead. The sophomore forward is now 3-3 on PKs in 2011.
“I feel really secure about it, we practice PKs before each match and it’s my job to score goals,” said Bulut.
From then on the Banana Slugs didn’t get anything near the goal until the 88 minute mark when Ben Colacchio nearly parlayed an APU foul into a score. The senior defender’s free-kick from over 40 yards out sailed over the outstretched arms of Geletko, but couldn’t drop in, landing on top of the goal. The sudden burst from the bench quickly diminished, as did the any hope for a comeback as Geletko extended his shutout streak to three (310 minutes) for the team’s sixth win of 2011.
The Cougars outshot the Slugs 13-12, and had a 6-1 advantage in corners. Geletko, who was named GSAC defensive player of the week for his efforts against Bethel (Ind.) and St. Xavier (Ill.), notched five saves and lowered his GAA to 0.57.
“Joe made an unbelievable save today. He has a good group in front of him, but he’s done a good job of getting [stops] when they matter,” said Blomquist.
The team will open up conference play at home next weekend against Point Loma Nazarene for the program’s final go in the GSAC.
Highlights From The Match