ST. GEORGE, Utah-- The road hasn’t been the kindest place for the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team this season. Entering Saturday the team was just 2-5-1 away from the Cougar Soccer Complex, where it finished a perfect 9-0 this season, and hadn’t won a road match since late September.
On Saturday Azusa Pacific seemed right at home, scoring two first half goals before going on to defeat Dixie State 4-1 in the team’s final regular season match of the season.
“It means a lot to finish the regular season with a win. I felt like the guys prepared well with the week off and it showed tonight,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “I think the travel in the conference has been a challenge this season, but I think the guys have learned how to travel well. They’ve grown in that as a group this year and I think that’s a big reason for our success.”
Keyran Kelly quickly put Azusa Pacific in the driver’s seat off a cross from Carlos Garcia Partida, before Tanner Akol, who scored in last week’s win over the Red Storm, found the back of the net on Saturday, putting the Cougars ahead 2-0 in the 22nd minute.
The Cougars continued their run when Garcia Partida volleyed in Luke Ackerman’s cross from the right side in the 66th minute, and just three minutes later Leonardo Grigg put Azusa Pacific ahead 4-0. The Red Storm eventually got on the board when Eric Shallenberger ended Joe Geletko’s shutout bid in the 83rd minute. Geletko finished with eight saves, including a pair of diving stops in the second half.
The match for the Cougars came down to quality-over-quantity as the red Storm out-shot Azusa Pacific 20-8, but didn’t create as many good opportunities as the Cougars did, despite putting nine of 20 shots on goal. For much of the match the Cougar defense kept Dixie State out of the box, forcing the Red Storm to take the majority of its chances from 20+ yards out.
“I was pleased with the way our defending kept them out of the box. Joe made some nice saves, but we kept them for the most part out of the danger areas,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “I felt like we did a good job of creating a lot of quality opportunities. We had a good flow in our attacking movements, specifically on Carlos’ goal. That was a world-class finish.”
The Azusa Pacific defense shined on a number of occasions, most notably when Michael Sahagian stopped a would-be goal after Tyler Albretsen got free for a rare opportunity and sent in a wide open shot from the top of the box.
With the win the Cougars finish with a 10-4 mark in their first season in the Pacific West Conference. Azusa Pacific will now await its fate for the National Christian College Athletics Association playoffs, where the team is expected to be selected to compete in the West Region tournament. As soon as the postseason information becomes official it can be found on the Azusa Pacific athletics website.