AZUSA, Calif. -- Despite a 2-0 halftime deficit, the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific answered with a pair of goals to earn a 2-2 draw with Wheaton and its head coach Joe Bean, a collegiate coaching legend who sought his 600th career coaching victory.
"We did not come out with the right mentality," said Cougar head coach Phil Wolf, a former All-American player at Wheaton and a 5-year assistant coach under Bean prior to his hiring at Azusa Pacific. "We did not have enough urgency, and we conceded goals early. This game (soccer) is a very tough game when you concede goals."
Bean, the winningest coach in collegiate soccer history, is in his 38th season at Wheaton and his 45th at the collegiate level. He would have been the first collegiate soccer coach to reach 600 wins, and his Thunder squad got out to a quick 2-0 lead just over 15 minutes into the contest. In the 11th minute, Cory Smith scored on a header, knocking in a pass off the head of Steve Rigby to put Wheaton on the board with a 1-0 lead. Less than 5 minutes later, Jason VanderVeen finished a cross from Justin West who attacked the right side of the box to give the Thunder a 2-goal advantage.
Wolf used the halftime break to fire up a listless Cougar squad that did not convert on 7 shot attempts and 5 corner kick opportunities in the opening half.
"These guys don’t do enough to get results, and I told them that," said Wolf. "After the half, we showed some urgency and had some fight in us, but you have to show that urgency in this game for 90 minutes."
Junior Steven Lenhart, who shot 3 times in the first half, converted on his fifth shot of the game, collecting a pass on the left side from junior Sven Simon before sending it past the keeper to the far post to cut the Wheaton lead to 2-1 just past the 60-minute mark.
The Cougars continued to pound away at the Thunder goal, firing another 10 shots over the final 30 minutes of regulation. After Wheaton’s Dan Masko was ejected for a second yellow card in the 76th minute, Azusa Pacific pressed forward to further emphasize the attack. It paid off in the 85th minute, as sophomore Chris Batdorf headed in a bouncing cross from midfield off the foot of junior Brandon Stirm to pull the Cougars even at 2-2 with less than 6 minutes to play in regulation.
Wheaton goalkeeper Ryan Souders saved another Batdorf shot with just under 2 minutes left in regulation, and freshman Eric Winblad headed a shot wide with 40 seconds to play. Souders saved all 3 Cougar shots in the overtime periods. The Cougars enjoyed a 17-3 shots advantage during the second half and the 2 overtime periods.
Azusa Pacific earned 13 corner kicks during the game, and finished with a 24-10 advantage in shots. After giving up the 2 early goals, freshman goalkeeper Tyler Stromberg saved 2 shots in holding the Thunder scoreless over the game’s final 95 minutes. Souders finished with 9 saves in the Wheaton goal.
Bean will resume his pursuit of win number 600 Wednesday, when Wheaton visits the University of Chicago.
"It is amazing that a guy has not only been coaching that long, but to think of the quality seasons he has had over that time to approach that kind of milestone," said Wolf. "You never want to be the opponent in the record book, whether it’s giving up a record home run or being on the wrong end of somebody's 600th win. Fortunately, we didn’t take the 'L' today."
The Cougars are also back in action Wednesday to resume Golden State Athletic Conference play, when they host The Master’s in a 3 p.m. contest.
"I think for both us and The Master’s, this game is the season for us," said Wolf. "We are trying to take care of our next 4 games and try to position ourselves to get into the regional playoffs. I expect it to be a typical, hard-fought GSAC game, much like several we have already been involved in this year."
With the draw, Azusa Pacific’s overall record now stands at 8-3-2, while Wheaton is now 8-5-3.