AZUSA, Calif. -- If every game is like this, then defending GSAC champion Azusa Pacific's 2002 season could be very entertaining.
Six different Cougars scored as Azusa Pacific (1-0), ranked No. 10 in the NAIA preseason poll, walloped Palm Beach Atlantic (Fla.), 6-0, in its season-opener tonight in the second game of the 16th Annual Cougar Classic in Azusa.
We just saw the difference between last year's team and this year's team," said second year head coach Phil Wolf, who ran his career record to 16-1-3. "Last year we play this team to a 1-0, 2-1 win, but this year we are obviously a little more potent offensively. We are able to put teams away that may not be on their game on a given night. It was fun to watch. Even though it's earlier, this team is raring to go."
Using a high-powered offensive attack, Azusa Pacific pummeled shots in the direction of Sailfish (0-2) GK Anthony Joseph all night long, keeping the senior on his toes. Joseph was up to the task until Senior transfer John Kightlinger opened the floodgates just 20 minutes in when he rifled a cross from senior Jeff Johnson into the upper left corner of the net. Kightlinger, an NCAA Division III All-American last year at Wheaton (Ill.) College, also tallied a pair of assists.
"Kightlinger is a special player," said Wolf. "He's got the gift and composure that most players don't have, especially in front of the goal. It's a joy coaching him."
Senior All-GSAC Jordan Jones gave the Cougars a 2-0 halftime lead when he dribbled the ball to the right side of the 18-yard box, then blasted a rocket against traffic and past an unsuspecting Joseph into the left corner of the net.
A trio of Cougars scored their first collegiate goal, started by freshman Ian Leibbrandt, who was the benefactor of a Kightlinger through ball. Leibbrandt buried the pass into the right netting to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead just 7 minutes into the second half.
"I thought defensively, we played well," said Wolf. "Morgan had an exceptional game for a freshman. He showed no signs of jitters."
Johnson scored his first goal in the 80th minute from David Alapag, then sophomore Shane Bangle and redshirt freshman Matt Nelson each added their first collegiate goals in the final 3 minutes. Nelson's tally came off a Kightlinger corner kick with 20 seconds left.
"Everyone stepped it up tonight, and we were able to finish a lot of goals," said Kightlinger. "I was a bit nervous trying to prove myself, but we have the guys necessary to finish plays. We like to attack and go forward and that's our style, and I think teams could be in trouble when we get it going."
The Cougars outshot PBA, 21-6, with 15 of those shots coming in the second half. Joseph collected 8 saves. The Cougar defense was solid as well, allowing just a few minor chances, and freshman GK Morgan Cathey needed to make just 2 saves, including a beauty when he got his fingertips on a floating chip and sent it over the cross bar, to secure his first career shutout.
In game 1 of the Cougar Classic, Chapman and The Master's played to a scoreless draw. Chapman was a late addition to the tournament, agreeing to play late yesterday afternoon after it was learned that St. Gregory's (Okla.) College backed out of its scheduled trip. Azusa Pacific faces Chapman tomorrow night.