SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With a full offseason to contemplate their disappointing conclusion to last season, the NAIA’s No. 8 ranked Azusa Pacific (1-0) appears to have finally found an appropriate outlet to take their frustrations out on. The Cougars ratcheted up their offense early and often in a 4-1 win over the NAIA's No. 14 ranked Bethel (Ind.) in their season opener in South Bend, Indiana.
Senior forward Ian Leibbrandt, who is eighth on the Cougars’ all-time scoring list, began his night by giving Azusa Pacific an early 1-0 lead with a goal in the 10th minute. Junior Skelly Kellar fed Leibbrandt with a cross and he fired it into the net from 8 yards out for the score.
Andriy Budnyy, a senior striker whose 53 points led the team a year ago, knocked home his first goal of the season when the Bethel keeper misplayed a cross and, being out of position, left Budnyy with an opportunity to take advantage. His touch goal in the 25th minute made it 2-0 as he continued his torrid play in the opener seemingly without missing a step from 2004.
The lead bulged to 3-0 before halftime after the Cougars played a ball that was corralled by the Bethel left back just in front of the endline. Leibbrandt quickly stripped him of the ball and from a slim angle was able to find the back of the net, just inside the far post, from 10 yards out.
After the Pilots scored in the 52nd minute to make it 3-1, Azusa Pacific put the finishing touches on the scoring late in the match when junior Tony Rotunno fed sophomore Sven Simon with a beautiful cross that Simon promptly headed in. That extended the lead back to 3 goals and, for this night, served as the final demonstration of their potent attack.
The Cougars, who are now 5-0 in openers under head coach Phil Wolf, will be back in action Friday, September 2, when they take on Illinois-Springfield.