OAKLAND, Calif.-- Casey Sbrana’s second half score lifted the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team to a 1-0 Pacific West Conference opening victory over Holy Names on Thursday. The goal was Sbrana’s second of the season, both of which have been game winners.
The Cougars extended their four-match winning streak as junior keeper Chip Cox, who was named PacWest Defender of the Week on Monday, notched his first shutout of the season following a match-ending snare of a corner to seal the Azusa Pacific victory.
“It was up and down. We did well in the first half. We moved the ball well and as the half wore on we became dangerous,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “In the second they came out and played better. We struggled after the break in a tough away venue, but I’m proud of the effort the guys put in. It was a little bit ironic that our goal came in the second half, but I thought we did a good job of protecting our lead and being aggressive.”
The Cougars got the winner when Billy Flores picked up the ball in the attacking half and played a diagonal to Sbrana across the back four. Sbrana then took the ball down and placed it past the keeper for the game winner with 24 minutes to play in the match.
Azusa Pacific had another chance when Raul Martinez crossed it to Tanner Akol, who just missed as he redirected it wide of the goal.
Holy Names pressed in the second half and nearly found the equalizer late. Jaime Phillips nearly knotted the score with less than 10 minutes to play when he broke away from the Cougar defense, but Cox cut down the angle and stopped the play from eight yards out to preserve the Azusa Pacific lead.
Later on Oktay Bulut played a through ball to Keyran Kelly, who then raced in looking to put the Cougars ahead 2-0. But the Hawks’ keeper came out and made an incredible left-legged stop to deflect it wide of the post.
“It was contested all the way to the end. They had a chance late, and we had a chance to go two up with 10 to play. Any conference win on the road is tough to come by, and I’m pleased with the result today,” said Blomquist.
Azusa Pacific will return to action on Saturday when it travels to San Francisco for a road tilt at Academy of Art.