AZUSA, Calif. -- Just 51 seconds into the NAIA’s No. 4-ranked Azusa Pacific’s non-conference contest, freshman Eric Winblad blasted a volley off a corner kick clearance 30 yards through the Westminster (Utah) defense for the Cougars’ first goal in a 4-0 rout at Azusa Square. Senior Skelly Kellar’s corner kick in the opening minute was cleared from the penalty area by a Westminster defender but ended up at the feet of Winblad, who wound up and fired a rocket tailing away to the goalkeeper’s left side. The goal was the first of Winblad’s collegiate career.
"I was just sitting outside the 18 (yard box) waiting for a ball to come out," said Winblad, a true freshman who has started all 6 games for the Cougars as a defender. "It bounced right out to me on one hop, and I just volleyed it."
Azusa Pacific, which did not score in the first 70 minutes in a 2-1 upset loss to unranked Graceland (Iowa) a week ago, enjoyed a 23-5 shots advantage. Junior Sven Simon added a goal in the 9th minute on a give-and-go play along the left side with senior Dustin McBride to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
"It happened just like you practice it – Dustin made a great run, passed it inside to me, and I used my inside foot to pass the ball into the goal," said Simon. "We know we didn’t play the best today, but we dominated the whole game. We kept possession of the ball and created chances, and when we get enough chances, we know we’re going to score."
At the 57-minute mark, Simon added his second goal, increasing his team-leading season tally to 7 goals through the first 6 games. Simon found himself in a one-on-opportunity with the goalkeeper and sent a perfect strike past him to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead. The scoring was wrapped up by a 71st-minute strike from Kellar, who streaked to the left side of the penalty box on a ball played from midfield by junior Brandon Stirm. Kellar played his shot past the goalkeeper to the far post to give Azusa Pacific a commanding 4-0 lead.
"I hoped this would be a game where we could score a few goals," said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf, whose squad moves into Golden State Athletic Conference play next week with matches against Biola and No. 13-ranked Westmont. "Sven and Steve Lenhart have taken the bulk of our scoring load, which is what you should expect from your forwards. The conference will be extremely tough this year. I think we are ready for it, but some crazy things can happen in the GSAC, and getting off on the right foot is very important."
Freshman goalkeeper Tyler Stromberg earned a shutout in his collegiate debut, collecting 3 saves to hold the Griffins scoreless. Lenhart sent 5 shots toward goal, and junior Kolt Callaway created several opportunities from the central midfield to finish with 4 shots, 2 of which were saved by Westminster goalkeeper Kimball Parker.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 5-1, while Westminster, an NAIA independent, drops to 6-6. All 6 of the Griffins’ defeats have come at the hands of GSAC teams. The Cougars take on Biola in a 3 p.m. matchup Sept. 27 at Azusa Square to kick off the 10-game conference slate.