Azusa Pacific ties it up
Carlos Garcia Partida's game-winner
AZUSA, Calif.-- Biola has had a knack of ruining special events at Azusa Pacific. The Eagles beat Azusa Pacific in their final men’s basketball meeting at the Cougar Dome in 2000 and the next year became the first team to defeat the Cougars at the Felix Event Center.
On Saturday, in the first night match at the Cougar Soccer Complex, the Eagles appeared to be at it again. But despite taking a 1-0 lead less than 15 minutes into the Cougars’ record-breaking opening night, the Eagles’ spoiler bid wouldn’t be enough to hold off 2,600 fans and a gutty Azusa Pacific performance.
The Cougars came back from a 1-0 hole to score two goals in a six-minute span at the end of the first half before holding on for a 2-1 victory in front of a capacity crowd for the team’s first win of the young season.
“Getting the victory was great. But looking beyond that, the atmosphere here was incredible. Everything surrounding this game was incredible,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “On Friday the guys saw the bleachers and they were all a little wide-eyed. So to see the stands filled up and have a standing room only around the corners was unbelievable. I had visions of this, but to see it come to fruition was incredible.”
Azusa Pacific brought in over 2,000 seats worth of bleachers in preparation for the team’s first match under the newly installed set of lights at the Cougar Soccer Complex. And while the atmosphere of the night will likely be unmatched for some time, the record crowd was treated to quite a game.
For the second consecutive match the Cougars trailed in the first half, giving up a goal to Tony Montalvo in the 15th minute. But for the second straight time Azusa Pacific rallied, notching the equalizer in the 36th minute when senior midfielder Michael Sahagian got a pass from Steven Shiokari and placed it past the keeper inside the box.
Just six minutes later Carlos Garcia Partida gathered a cross from Kevin Yang and slotted the ball into the goal to give the Cougars a 2-1 edge.
“I really felt the significant moment that changed it was when Shiokari came in. When he came on he got us in our rhythm and had a great assist. Kevin did the same. When they came on they fit right in and knew what we were trying to do. I tip my hat to both of those guys for coming on and changing it for us,” said Blomquist.
Azusa Pacific took a 2-1 lead into halftime after out-shooting the Eagles 7-5 in the first 45 minutes. In the second half each team created plenty of chances. Oktay Bulut nearly gave the Cougars a 3-1 advantage, but his shot from the right side of the box was just barely blocked by a sliding Biola defender.
On the other side of the field senior keeper Joe Geletko earned his win, stopping three consecutive headers from the Eagles. Biola’s Joey O’Keefe nearly tied the match on a header off a corner on back-to-back plays, but Geletko, a 2011 All-GSAC goalie, managed to get his hand on the first one before snaring the second. Geletko finished with five saves.
Towards the end of the match things got a little chippy, as can be expected at an Azusa Pacific-Biola game. In the final three minutes there were eight fouls and three yellow cards (a total of six in the game).
“Both teams really wanted it. There’s a lot at stake, so the players are going to show that desire and sometimes it gets physical. That’s part of the rivalry game,” said Blomquist.
Biola and Azusa Pacific each tallied 11 shots with Biola putting six on target while the Cougars placed five on goal. Garcia Partida led the team with three shots, while Bulut finished with two.
Azusa Pacific will return to the field on Wednesday night when the Cougars welcome another former GSAC foe in Hope International before they fly up to Vancouver, B.C. for a match with Simon Fraser on Friday at 7:30 p.m.