AZUSA, Calif.-- After giving up an early goal, the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team responded with four-straight scores to defeat Dixie State (Utah) 4-2, improving to 9-0 at home this season. The Cougars got pairs of goals from Oktay Bulut and Luke Ackerman, and outshot the Red Storm (5-10-2; 4-7 PWC) 19-6 in their final home match of the season.
“Overall I was pleased with our performance. We were up and down a bit, but we were able to get out of those spells where we weren’t at our best, and got back to playing the way we like to play,” said head coach Dave Blomquist.
Azusa Pacific (11-5-1; 9-4 PWC) came out strong, with Steven Shiokari getting off two good shots in the first 10 minutes. Both, however, were saved by Tyler Walters, who was busy all day as the Cougars put 10 shots on goal. On the next possession Bulut nearly got on the board on a breakaway, but his shot towards the near post was stopped by Walters.
After the Red Storm withstood the Cougars’ initial onslaught it almost scored when Joshua Cook’s shot from the top of the box rolled just outside the right post in the 11th minute. Dixie State then broke the 0-0 stalemate in the 17th minute when Francisco Rivero scored his first goal of the season after the Azusa Pacific failed to clear a loose ball deep in the box.
Over the next 15 minutes both teams struggled to get anything going offensively, with the Cougars’ best opportunity coming in the 30th minute when Michael Sahagian’s shot from the top of the box was saved by Walters on a diving stop to his left.
In the 36th minute Bulut finally put Azusa Pacific on the board when he controlled Keyran Kelly’s cross, and blasted it into the far corner for the equalizer.
“Oktay’s shot was great for us. He put it by the keeper before he even knew it was coming. Oktay and Luke were great for us in the midfield. They made a lot of forward runs, got into the box, and that showed on the stat sheet,” said Blomquist.
The Cougars went into the half knotted at 1-1 after controlling possession for the majority of the first 45 minutes, outshooting the Red Storm 9-4.
In the second half Azusa Pacific notched the first eight shots, including the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning goals. On the go-ahead Garrett Mehrguth sent in a corner and Ackerman made a great play on the nearside, heading it near post for his third goal of the season in the 63rd minute to give the team a 2-1 edge.
The Cougars padded their lead in the 74th minute after Dixie State was called for a hand ball In the box, forcing a penalty kick. Bulut took the shot, and finished in the lower right corner. Then, just two minutes later Ackerman capped the Cougars’ scoring when Bulut passed it through a crowded box to him seven yards from the goal. He then placed it past the keeper from the left side.
Dixie State eventually cut its deficit to two goals when Rivero found the back of the net for the second time in the 80th minute. The Red Storm made a late push, but only registered two second-half shots in the teams’ first meeting as Pacific West Conference opponents.
Keeper, Joe Geletko, who was honored as one of five seniors before the match, tallied one save before being relieved by fellow senior Jeff Dunn in the 78th minute.
Azusa Pacific and Dixie State will meet again in the PacWest finale next Saturday in Saint George, Utah.