FRESNO, Calif.-- Riding a seven match winning streak and a season-high national ranking the No. 5 Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team gave up three first half goals before losing 3-1 to Fresno Pacific on the road Wednesday night.
The loss, which was the team’s first since a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Grand Canyon (Ariz.) in the season opener, snapped Azusa Pacific’s seven match winning streak over Fresno Pacific and evened the team’s GSAC record to 1-1.
"I was proud of the guys that they kept at it," said Head Coach Dave Blomquist. "Being down 3-0 at the half isn't an easy place to be sitting and I thought they handled it well."
The Cougars (7-2), who were in the midst of a four-game shutout streak, have been especially stout, allowing just four goals on the season. However the team’s string of shutouts came to a close in the seventh minute on Paul Islas’ rainbow over Joe Geletko; ending the keepers scoreless streak at 407 minutes.
In the 25th the Sunbirds got another score as Gustavo Silva stole the ball and passed it to Islas, who then split the defense for a breakaway goal.
The Fresno Pacific forward wasn’t done there as he notched the hat trick with a shot from outside the box in the 45th minute, capping Azusa Pacific’s most generous 45 minutes of the season.
The three goals in the first half were more than the Cougars had given up over the 630 minutes of play.
"Fresno is a good team and always a tough place to play," said Blomquist. "Paul Islas is an all-conference, all-American caliber player."
Oktay Bulut tried to get the team to rally back as he worked through the Sunbird defense before placing it by the Fresno Pacific keeper in the 60th minute to cut the deficit to two. The forward had five shots in the contest and put four of them on goal.
The Cougars, however, were unable to get any closer as their five remaining shots were either blocked, saved, or off the mark.
The match was fairly balanced, except where it mattered, as the Sunbirds outshot the Cougars 23-19 on the night and put eight shots on goal compared to Azusa Pacific’s six.
"I thought it was an even match...often times in an even match it’s who takes their chances. Some of our wins this year have been even matches," said Blomquist. "Today just wasn’t our match."
The loss dropped Azusa Pacific one game back of first place in the GSAC standings, and bumped Fresno Pacific into a tie atop the conference at 2-0 (6-3 overall).
"With the effort that we had tonight and the quality we did show I’m confident as we move forward that we'll stay positive and get good results," said Blomquist.
The men will hope to start another streak as the face The Master’s for a road match on Saturday.