MOBILE, Ala. -- Juniors Sven Simon and Steven Lenhart each scored 2 goals to lead Azusa Pacific to a 4-2 victory over No. 8-ranked Auburn Montgomery in the Cougars’ first-ever contest as the No. 1-ranked men’s soccer program in the NAIA. For the third straight game, the Cougars turned a low-scoring halftime deadlock into a display of precision attacking with a second-half outburst.
Simon struck first, collecting a cross from junior Brandon Stirm and finding the back of the net in the 22nd minute to give the Cougars the early advantage. Auburn Montgomery answered late in the half with a goal from 2005 NAIA Player of the Year Hjortur Hjartarsson. Azusa Pacific, which has now scored 10 of its 12 goals this season in the second half, got rolling again when Simon, who scored a pair of goals in Azuas Pacific's season-opening win over Hastings (Neb.), scored on another ball from Stirm in the 58th minute, the first of 3 Cougar goals in a 10-minute span.
“Part of it is a process of getting a feel for our opponent in the first half,” said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf. “Fitness also plays a big part of our success after halftime. We tend to wear teams down physically over the course of the match, and we know that this team will be judged on the full 90 minutes of each game. Right now we are creating chances, scoring goals and defending well over 90 minutes.”
Lenhart, a 2-goal scorer for the Cougars in their 4-2 win over No. 23-ranked Oklahoma Baptist last week, scored in the 65th minute with an assist from senior Dustin McBride to give Azusa Pacific a 3-1 lead, and in the 67th minute, added another with an assist from freshman Eric Winblad for a convincing 4-1 advantage. The Cougar defense held until the 82nd minute, when Hjartarsson put away a penalty kick opportunity to cut the lead to 4-2.
“Sven and Steve have a great partnership,” said Wolf. “They genuinely like each other, they complement each other on the field and obviously they are producing. They both look for each other, and they read each other very well.”
The contest was a rematch of the Cougars’ 2-1 victory over the Senators in the 2005 NAIA quarterfinals, which was the only time the programs previously met.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-0 on the season, while Auburn Montgomery drops to 1-2-1. The Cougars return to action Saturday when they take on No. 22-ranked Mobile (Ala.), a 10-time NAIA Tournament participant with 6 Top 3 finishes over the past 13 seasons. The Rams’ last appearance at the NAIA Tournament in 2004 ended with a 4-2 first-round loss to the Cougars, who are 2-1-1 all-time in the series, including a 2-1 victory in Azusa in 2005 non-conference action.