Westminster (Utah) 0
AZUSA, Calif. -- It’s been 13 days since a red-hot Azusa Pacific has stepped on the field, and once it shook off the rust, the Cougars kept their momentum and posted a 2-0 win over NAIA-member Westminster (Utah) in their last non-conference game.
The win is the Cougars’ fifth in a row, which bodes well as they head into a brutal GSAC slate Tuesday night at the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Fresno Pacific and then Thursday night at home against No. 5 Concordia.
The last time the Cougars won 5 straight heading into conference play was during the Cougars’ 2000 GSAC championship season.
“We had moments of great play and them some moments of shaky play,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Phil Wolf. “I think we have to figure out exactly what it will take to make us a great team. I think we’re close, but we have a hard time doing it for the whole game. I’m pleased with the result, though, and to be 6-2 with out preseason schedule is great.”
It took just 22 seconds for the Cougars to work off the first layer of rust as Skelly Kellar’s point blank shot just grazed over the cross bar. The Cougars kept the pressure and in the 26th minute, Jason Van Broekhuizen nearly broke through when his blast deflected off the cross bar. Seven minutes later he got another great opportunity, but his shot towards frame just scooted past the far post.
Van Broekhuizen finally capitalized with just 22 seconds remaining when he collected a loose ball in front of the Westminster net and tucked it away for his first goal of the season and a 1-0 Cougar lead at the intermission.
“Getting that goal right before halftime was key, because it made us realize that this was a game that we could handle and get a good result,” said Wolf.
Richie Craven scored his fourth goal of the year just 4 minutes into the second half to give Azusa Pacific a 2-goal cushion. Chandler Harris carried the ball down the left side and sent a cross into the box. Ian Leibbrandt found the cross and slid a pass back to a waiting Craven, who one-timed it past Griffin GK James Taylor and into the net.
“That was a great goal,” said Wolf. “We knocked the ball around, changed the point of attack, and Chandler played a good ball to Ian and as good forwards do, he played the ball back to Richie. It was a great understanding between our front-runners.”
Morgan Cathey collected 6 saves, including 2 beautiful stops in a 10-minute span late in the second half, to post his first shutout of the season. However, no save was bigger than the penalty kick he stuffed in the 87th minute to preserve the shutout.
It was the second penalty kick save of the season for Cathey and third for the Cougar keepers as Julian Cottrell stopped a PK against UC San Diego.
Getting a shutout alone is a big feat, but shutting out a Griffin team that scored 11 goals in the past 2 games, including a 6-2 win over GSAC-foe California Baptist, is impressive. The Cougar keepers have now allowed 1 goal or less in all but one game this year.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 6-2 overall. Westminster drops to 7-6. The Cougars now head into the always tough GSAC slate, and it couldn’t be anymore difficult out of the gate. Azusa Pacific plays back-to-back games against GSAC preseason favorites and top 15 teams No. 13 Fresno Pacific (Tuesday in Fresno) and No. 5 Concordia (Thursday in Azusa).
“Next week is huge,” said Wolf. “We get the 2 best teams in the GSAC right out of the gate. It’s a huge challenge to play them, and we hope we can at least 1 win.”