WHEATON, Ill. -- While early season prognostications can be unreliable, game results can be counted on to reveal a team’s ability and, after the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific dispatched Illinois-Springfield, 8-0, it seems safe to say that the offense has opened the year in full throttle.
Senior Ian Leibbrandt and sophomore Steven Lenhart scored two goals apiece and junior Dustin McBride added a goal and a pair of assists as the Cougars recorded their highest scoring game in the Phil Wolf-era. Azusa Pacific has outscored its first two opponents 12-1 and today’s 8 goals were the most since drubbing Cal State Hayward 12-1 on Sept. 3, 1999. Seven Cougars recorded a point in the victory.
The Cougars (2-0) got the Bob Baptista Invitational off to a firecracker of a start against the Prairestars (0-1-1) in the 19th minute when Leibbrandt continued his quality beginning to the year by scoring his third goal of the season for a 1-0 advantage. Sophomore Sven Simon opened the lead to 2-0 when he headed in a cross from McBride for his second goal of the young campaign.
After Leibbrandt tallied his second goal of the day off a feed from senior forward Andriy Budnyy, he teamed with McBride on still another goal. Leibbrandt delivered a perfect cross to McBride who chipped the ball over the keeper. The ball glanced off the bottom of the crossbar and settled into the net for the Cougars’ fourth goal of the day.
Budnyy scored his second goal of the year and, after all their offensive creation, the Cougars rested starters after halftime with a secure 5-0 lead.
Azusa Pacific did not let up as sophomore Kolt Callaway scored a goal in the 86th minute off a pass from McBride.
The rest of the second half may have been a foregone thought but Lenhart made one take notice with his standout performance. He scored twice, once in the 89th minute and then again in the 90th. Freshman Matt Kristoff played the ball back to Callaway who then served the ball in front of the face of the goal. Lenhart swooped toward the ball and, leaving his feet, knocked home the diving header past the futile efforts of the keeper. For an encore, less than sixty seconds had eclipsed from the clock before he received a cross from Chris Batdorf and blasted the ball into the net to complete the scoring.
“We are pleasantly surprised with how we’re doing up front,” head coach Phil Wolf said. “It’s coming together for us but we have a big test tomorrow.”
That test is the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Judson (Ill.) Eagles, a prolific team that went 23-1-1 last season and captured the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship. Azusa Pacific will take on the Eagles beginning at 3 p.m. (CDT).