SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific had an opportunity to make a statement at this weekend’s Westmont Heritage Club Classic, and the Cougars finished with an exclamation point. Junior Steven Lenhart scored a pair of goals and helped lead another second-half outburst to break a halftime tie in a 4-2 victory over No. 7-ranked Oklahoma Baptist.
"We seem to be getting the offensive punch we began the season wondering about," said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf, in reference to the graduation of NAIA All-Americans Andriy Budnyy and Ian Leibbrandt and their combined 36 goals in 2005. "We definitely feel good about leaving here with 2 wins against this caliber of competition away from home."
Lenhart put Azusa Pacific on the board less than 8 minutes into the match, knocking in a corner kick off the foot of senior midfielder Skelly Kellar to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. Oklahoma Baptist answered in the 31st minute, when Raphael Liberatore struck a direct free kick from just outside the penalty area past Cougar goalkeeper James Crawford to send the game to halftime tied at 1-1.
However, for the second straight day, Azusa Pacific applied pressure early in the second half, and the Cougars used another set piece to take the lead for good, as Kellar’s free kick found the head of senior Dustin McBride¸ who directed it into the goal for a 2-1 lead in the 52nd minute. In the 65th minute, Lenhart broke free for a one-on-one opportunity to send what turned out to be the game-winner into the goal for a 3-1 lead. Less than 6 minutes later, junior Kolt Callaway scored to give Azusa Pacific a 4-1 lead. Junior Sven Simon assisted both of the Cougars’ final goals.
With the win, Azusa Pacific gets a 2-0 start on its brutal nonconference schedule, which includes meetings with the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) and 10-time NAIA Tournament participant Mobile (Ala.) this weekend on the Mobile campus.