AZUSA, Calif. -- It has become a theme of late for Azusa Pacific to fall behind only to storm back and claim victory.
The latest opponent to meet this fate was GSAC-rival Westmont who took a 1-0 lead in the 5th minute only to watch it slip away and lose, 2-1, in front of a sun-drenched crowd, Saturday afternoon, at the Azusa Square.
After coming off a 3-2 overtime win over Biola, the Cougars did not have any opportunity to experience a let down. The Warriors have historically played Azusa Pacific as tough as anyone.
Michael Thompson got Westmont off to the start it was hoping for when he took a pass from Luke Williams and found a glimpse of daylight inside the far post where he managed to thread the ball before keeper Morgan Cathey could snuff out the scoring chance.
By taking a 1-0 lead, Westmont became the fourth consecutive team to score first against Azusa Pacific. As has been the case recently, the goal only seemed to liven the Cougars’ attack.
Continuing his monster senior season, Ian Leibbrandt tied the game, 1-1, with a goal in the 24th minute. Skelly Kellar served a left cross in front of the goal and Leibbrandt rose above a host of defenders and delivered a header past Westmont keeper Logan Frank for the score. It was Leibbrandt’s tenth goal of the season.
It did not take much longer for the Cougars (8-1, 2-0) to strike again. In the 29th minute, Kellar again put a teammate in a great spot to score. Working up the right side, he spotted Sven Simon and gave him a pass that Simon trapped. He then rifled a shot inside the near post to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Even though the chances were there in spots for both teams the rest of the afternoon, neither team came up with another goal. The Cougars outshot the Warriors 16-13 although each team had 7 shots on goal. It was another dogfight for Azusa Pacific against a difficult conference opponent.
“We were really fortunate to get 3 points today,” said head coach Phil Wolf. “They played technically well and also played tough against our counter. We played our 2 biggest rivals this week and it’s about results. I’ll take the 6 points in 2 games.”
Perhaps the most interesting sub-plot in the game was the match-up of head coaches. Westmont's Dave and Azusa Pacific's Phil are brothers who were meeting for the sixth time. Older brother Dave held the advantage until the Cougars helped knot things up between them at 3 wins apiece.
The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Cougars will next battle GSAC foe California Baptist on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. at the Azusa Square.