AZUSA, Calif.-- California Baptist used early goals in the first and second half to propel past the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team with a 2-1 win in the National Christian College Athletics Association West Region semifinal on Thursday night. Azusa Pacific overcame an early surge after the Lancers found the back of the net in the fifth minute, leveling the score at 1-1 on Keenan Armbrust’s sixth goal of the season in the 39th minute.
Three minutes into the second half CBU notched the go-ahead score, and held off a late Cougar attack to advance to the NCCAA West Region final at Fresno Pacific on Saturday afternoon.
“I thought both teams played fairly well. California Baptist is a great team and deserved the win just as much as we did,” said Cougar head coach Dave Blomquist. “I thought we responded well to the goals out there. In the first half we were able to get one back, and I thought we could have added another with the momentum we had going. In the second half they came out and got the go-ahead goal, but we kept at it. Unfortunately we just couldn’t find the chance to even it.”
The Lancers got on the board early on when Alex Anderson played a though ball from Jonathan Fausto, and blasted it right side past Joe Geletko in the fifth. The Cougars knotted the score at 1-1 when Armbrust received a through ball from Michael Sahagian and rifled it past PacWest goalkeeper of the year Joey Pacheco, who came out nearly 15 yards to try to stop the fast break.
The teams went into the half ted 1-1 after CBU held a 5-3 edge in shots. Early in the second Fausto recorded his second assist of the night when he played a ball deep into the box, finding Paul Oliver for a header from 12 yards out for the game winner.
The Cougars out-shot the Lancers 10-8 in the match, and 7-3 over the final 45 minutes after trailing for the majority of the second half. Azusa Pacific had multiple chances at the equalizer, but couldn’t find a way past Pacheco and the Lancer defense.
In the 13th minute Garrett Mehrguth served up a pass to Oktay Bulut on the left side of the box. Bulut played the ball off his chest and struck it with his left foot, but Pacheco was there for one of his two saves of the night. Then, in 20th minute Steven Shiokari nearly scored off a cross from John Tribbey, but his shot slid just outside of the left post.
In the 55th minute Carlos Garcia Partida nearly tied the score in impressive fashion when his bicycle attempt from the middle of the box went two yards left of the post. Azusa Pacific pressed late, getting off three shots in the final two minutes before the Lancers clinched the win after Armburst’s 89th minute attempt sailed over the bar.
The loss all but end’s the Cougars’ first season playing an NCAA Division II schedule, with the team having an outside shot of earning an at-large berth to the NCCAA national championships. But regardless of the outcome, Blomquist still classifies Azusa Pacific’s first year of PacWest play as a successful one.
“There have been so many positives to this year. The older players really have taken the group and moved them forward... they moved the program forward. The entire group really bought into what we’re trying to do and we had some pretty amazing performances. On the whole it’s been a really positive season,” said Blomquist.
The Cougars will find out on Saturday night whether or not they’ll receive the one open bid.