BELMONT, Calif.-- After giving up three second half goals, and watching its 1-0 lead turn into a 3-1 deficit late in the second half it was an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation for the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team, even if the Cougars had just 20 hands following a red card in the 75th minute. But Azusa Pacific showed off its resiliency in an impressive three-goal three-minute span to post an improbable 4-3 come from behind victory over Notre Dame de Namur on Thursday afternoon.
“I’ve never been part of a game like that. There were two very big momentum swings. After being up 1-0 they scored and took the momentum to go ahead 3-1. But as quickly as we lost it we got it back,” said head coach Dave Blomquist. “We were able to get things going, and I’m really proud of how the guys responded. They were frustrated with themselves. They got caught defensively watching some plays and wanted to get it back. It certainly wasn’t how you draw it up, but I’m glad we’re finding ways to win.”
Notre Dame de Namur (6-7-2, 3-4-2) capped its three goal run in the 77th minute to take a commanding 3-1 edge on the Cougars. But less than a minute later Azusa Pacific (11-3) began its comeback quest, cutting the score to 3-2 on an Oktay Bulut penalty kick. The PK was Bulut’s fourth successful conversion of the season, giving him a team-leading six goals before his next strike.
In the 78th Bulut found the back of the net again, getting the equalizer on a header off a Tanner Akol corner kick. The Cougars then put the finishing touches on the comeback when Keenan Armbrust finished a through ball from Keyran Kelly, beating the charging keeper for his sixth goal of the season.
Over the final 11 minutes the Cougars held off the Argonauts to remain atop the Pacific West Conference standings with a 7-1 mark. Both teams were masterful on the offensive end in the second frame, each scoring on three of their six shots. NDNU held a slight shot advantage in the match, tabbing a 9-8 edge.
Steven Shiokari put the Cougars on the board in the first half, scoring on a counter in the 14th minute. Azusa Pacific then protected the lead with a pair of saves from Chip Cox over the balance of the half.
The 4-3 win was the Cougars’ ninth one-goal victory, sixth in conference play. Azusa Pacific also improved to 4-0 in on the road in PacWest action.
“We’re finding ways and the victories have come in close games. We’re getting a lot of defining moments that we’re taking advantage of. We’ve also done it in different ways. We’ve won defensively with 1-0 and 2-1 scores behind great defensive play. And on other nights, like tonight, we’ve gotten goals when we’ve needed them. It shows the team’s resiliency and ability to find a way to make it work,” said Blomquist.
Azusa Pacific will return to action on Saturday against Dominican, where the Cougars will put their five-match winning streak to the test at 1:30 p.m.