FRESNO, Calif. -- Adrian Alvarado scored the golden goal in the 107th minute as the NAIA’s No. 15-ranked Fresno Pacific beat No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific, 3-2, eliminating the Cougars’ hopes of winning a Golden State Athletic Conference title.
Azusa Pacific (14-4, 7-3) concludes its regular season with 2 consecutive losses and now must wait for the rest of the GSAC schedule to shake out on Saturday to see what place it will finish.
The Sunbirds jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the 9th minute when Adam Arteaga scored on a rebound in the box. The Cougars have had several games this season in which they have fallen behind early but then battled back and did so again today but things got worse before they improved.
In the 23rd minute, Amaury Nunes buried a penalty kick and just like that Fresno Pacific was up 2-0. Ian Leibbrandt cut the lead in half with his eleventh goal of the season in the 27th minute as he headed in a cross off the foot of Skelly Kellar to make it 2-1. For Leibbrandt, who missed time with an injury, it was his first goal since Oct. 1. It was Kellar’s team-leading ninth assist of the year.
The Cougars came out in the second half looking for the equalizer and had several opportunities before they were able to convert in the 70th minute. Azusa Pacific outshot Fresno Pacific 10-3 in the second half alone but it was Damon Brooks who collected the ball in the box on a rebound and fired a shot past Sunbird keeper Oscar Rodriguez to knot the game at 2-2.
The game remained that way through the rest of regulation and through the first overtime period before Alvarado’s golden goal won it for the Sunbirds.
The Cougars took 9 more shots than the Sunbirds but each team had 8 shots on goal. Morgan Cathey had 5 saves but it wasn’t enough.
Azusa Pacific finishes the regular season with its first set of back-to-back losses of the year. It will open the NAIA Regional playoffs next Wednesday, Nov. 2.