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AZUSA, Calif.-- Well it certainly wasn’t a friendly. After 39 fouls, nine yellow cards, and two red cards, Azusa Pacific fell to Cal State Dominguez Hills 1-0 on Saturday night in a tense match that saw both teams fight to the finish. Azusa Pacific was on the cusp of getting the equalizer multiple times late in the second half, but couldn’t find a way to convert against a loaded Toro team that features four returning all NCAA Division II West Region players.
Cal State Dominguez Hills scored the match’s lone goal in the 28th minute when Heriberto Ponce Jr. received a cross at the top of the box, and slotted it left side past Chip Cox. The early score held up as the Cougars managed just four shots on goal over the course of the game.
“The desire was there for 90 minutes, which is something that we want in every game. It was an intense match, and it was a result of both teams really wanting the game. We’ve been playing them for years in exhibitions and scrimmages, and these are games that always have a little something to them,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “I was happy to see the effort we put forth. When you combine the drive to win with the quality of passing we do really well. I think we had that drive, and when we were committed to moving the ball we played well and were dangerous. Unfortunately we didn’t have that going all night.”
Cal State Dominguez Hills, the No. 1 team in the CCAA’s preseason coaches poll, registered 20 shots in the match, finishing with only one goal after tabbing four in a season-opening shutout against Point Loma on Thursday night. The Cougar defense excelled in the loss, making numerous plays to keep the Toros’ high-powered offense in check.
“I thought our back four was outstanding tonight. They have a very dangerous team. They attack in a lot different ways, so we were asking a lot of the guys tonight to hold in check one of the best CCAA teams, and they did that. And Chip was there when we needed him,” said Blomquist.
Cox finished with seven saves, including a pair of highlight reel stops. In the 23rd minute the junior just got a hand on Alejandro Covarrubias’ shot, diving to his right to push the ball past the post. Then in the 54th he made an impressive save on Miguel Vasquez’ laser from 12 yards out, knocking it away to keep the Cougars within striking distance.
And when Cox was in trouble, his defense was there to help him out. In the 44th minute Cox came out towards the middle of the box after coughing up a cross towards the goal, and as he tried to gather it Aaron Salazar swooped in and flicked it towards the back of the net. But just as it looked like the Toros were in line for a 2-0 lead Dane Johnson rushed towards the goal, leapt in the air and headed the ball over the bar to keep the score at 1-0 going into the break.
Azusa Pacific nearly got on the board in the 17th minute when Raul Martinez took a pass deep inside the 18 and pushed his shot just wide of the goal. With 27:15 to play Azusa Pacific had its best chance of the night. After the CSUDH keeper failed to clear a cross inside the box Oktay Bulut gathered it 17 yards out and waited for the defense to collapse on him before shuffling the ball to Martinez. Martinez settled, and just pulled his shot from the left side left of the post.
The loss drops the Cougars to 0-2, although each of the defeats have come against teams receiving votes in the NCAA Division II Coaches poll. Cal State L.A., which beat Azusa Pacific 3-0 on Thursday night, is ranked No. 21, while CSUDH sits at No. 34 in the country.
The Cougars won’t have much time to recover from Saturday night’s defeat. The team plays in three matches next week, beginning with Hope International on Monday night at 7:30. The Cougars will then host Montana State-Billings on Thursday at 7 p.m., before welcoming old GSAC rival Concordia at 7 p.m. on Saturday.