BETHANY, Okla. -- Azusa Pacific has made a habit of dominating the opposition so far this season. That is exactly the reason why the Cougars current road trip to Oklahoma was seen as an important barometer gauge.
Southern Nazarene (Okla.) knocked off the Cougars 2-1 in a game that featured big-time players and an intensity level that rivaled matches at the NAIA national tournament. Azusa Pacific wanted to get a sampling of that environment early in the season and it found exactly that. The loss snapped Azusa Pacific’s season opening 5-game win streak.
The Cougars had plenty of scoring chances in the game but just could not find the back of the net. They outshot the Crimson Storm 30-16, but a key mistake in the games’ opening moments proved to be too much to overcome.
In the 3rd minute, forward Harouna Pare scored after the Cougar defense was unable to clear a ball around the frame. The 1-0 lead for Southern Nazarene was just the second time all season that Azusa Pacific has found itself trailing. Despite taking 8 more shots and taking 4 more corners than the Crimson Storm, the Cougars were down 1-0 at halftime.
Southern Nazarene took a 2-0 lead in the 63rd minute on a goal by midfielder Andrew Shakarji.
Junior Tony Rotunno cut the lead in half with a goal in the 82nd minute, a deft shot that sailed over goalkeeper David Eguren and landed softly in the net. Trailing 2-1, the Cougars mounted a furious rally, peppering the frame with shots. Eguren, who had 11 saves, repeatedly turned them away in the closing moments.
“This was a great game for us early in the season,” said head coach Phil Wolf. “It was a national tourney type of game. We created as many chances as we have against everyone else but it was just one of those days. They are a good team and their keeper played well.”
The battle between the NAIA’s No. 4-ranked Cougars and No. 9-ranked Crimson Storm lived up to its billing. The task does not end there however. Tomorrow, Azusa Pacific must go to work against the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Oklahoma Baptist (Okla.) at 1 p.m. local time.