AZUSA, Calif. -- Mother Nature did her best, but not even the thunderstorms and rain she sent through Southern California Thursday afternoon could slow down Azusa Pacific’s explosive offense, which scored three first-half goals and tied its season-high in a 5-1 Pacific West Conference victory over Chaminade Thursday.
The game was delayed 45 minutes due to lightning strikes in the area during what should have been the pre-match warmup time for both teams. Instead, the squads sat indoors waiting for the lightning to subside, and rain showers continued throughout the first half before the entire storm system eventually moved on to allow the match to finally get underway after the long delay.
“I felt the guys stayed focused during all the time before the game through the uncertainty of whether we would play or not,” Cougar head coach Dave Blomquist. “I think that showed with the way we started, as I thought we had a very bright start to the game today.”
For the third straight game, and the sixth time in the past seven contests, the Cougars registered at least three goals, and this time they did so in the first half by opening up a 3-1 halftime advantage thanks to a pair of goals from junior midfielder Oktay Bulut. Within the first seven minutes of the second half, sophomore forward Leonardo Grigg added two more to push the lead to the final 5-1 margin.
The only goal surrendered by Azusa Pacific’s defense came on a penalty kick, when a Chaminade player was fouled in the box. Sam Galloway converted the PK, shooting low and to the right for the Silverswords’ lone score in the game, which cut Azusa Pacific’s lead to 2-1 in the 28th minute. Just 39 seconds later, Bulut tapped in a cross from freshman forward Keyran Kelly to make it a 3-1 game.
“Heading into this set of four home games, there were several things we wanted,” Blomquist said. “We wanted to put out a good performance every game, we wanted to show some improvement through each of the games, and being on our field where we’re comfortable, we wanted to really play our style of soccer.”
The scoring opened with sophomore forward Carlos Garcia-Partida’s 18th-minute score in which he knocked in a cross from junior midfielder Jeremy Bishop to spark a flurry of scoring activity over the next 10 minutes of gameplay. Bulut scored unassisted just three minutes later, putting away a left-footed strike that deflected off the left post into the goal to make it a 2-0 game in the 21st minute.
“It’s always good when your attacking movement is rewarded with a goal,” Blomquist said. “It keeps the momentum going, and it keeps the guys hungry for more. To get those first goals after we started well really lifted the team’s spirits, and we continued to move forward throughout the game.”
Galloway’s goal on the PK came in the 28th minute, and it was shortly followed by Bulut’s second goal. Bishop assisted Grigg’s first goal less than three minutes into the second half, and senior midfielder Michael Sahagian set up Grigg’s next score less than four minutes later with a cross into the box that pushed his streak of either scoring or assisting goals to five consecutive games.
The Cougars generated a lopsided 23-5 advantage in shots, converting five of its eight shots on goal into scoring plays. Senior goalkeeper Joe Geletko made one save, with the only goal he allowed coming on the penalty, and junior Scott Kinney took over in goal for 16 scoreless minutes to close out the game.
“I was pleased with the defensive group tonight,” said Blomquist. “I felt like we really limited their chances in the run of play. Their only goal came from the penalty, and I thought they were the most dangerous on set pieces. It was a great effort by the entire group tonight in the way that we defended, so I’m really quite pleased with that.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 8-3-1 overall and 6-2 in PacWest play, and the Cougars have now won six of their past seven since dropping their conference opener to move up to third in the conference standings. Chaminade falls to 1-8-1 overall and 1-6-1 in the PacWest.
The Cougars wrap up a four-game homestand Saturday, taking on BYU-Hawaii Saturday at 1 p.m. before heading into the final five-game stretch of the regular season.