AZUSA, Calif. -- It is getting to the point where if you are in attendance at an Azusa Pacific men’s soccer game in order to watch you must stay seated with your seat belt fastened.
Ian Leibbrandt scored 4 goals in the game's opening 14:05 as the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific cruised to a 7-0 win over Menlo in the first round of the Region II Playoffs, Wednesday afternoon at the Azusa Square.
The 7 goals the Cougars scored raised their season total to 71 which breaks the previous school record of 70 held by the 1978 team. The teams played an equal number of games with the 1978 squad finishing at 15-4. This year’s edition improved to the same 15-4 record and figures to add a few more goals to its total.
However, the team accomplishment was preceded by an amazing performance by Leibbrandt who performed an incredible opening number in the game. In nearly identical form, Tony Rotunno twice played right crosses to Leibbrandt in front of the goal which he headed into the back of the net. The first came in the 7th minute with the second quickly following in the 10th minute quickly putting Azusa Pacific ahead, 2-0.
The fast start was perhaps fueled by new energy for the postseason after the Cougars dropped their final 2 conference games to fall out of the GSAC race. Now they have a chance at some redemption in the regionals.
Leibbrandt, a 4-time All-GSAC pick, continued his onslaught in the 13th minute when he hammered home a right cross from Sven Simon far post to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead. “We have played together really well the past couple of weeks and now I know where he is going and he knows where I put the ball. We have gotten so much better,” said Simon.
He capped off the scoring spree when he beat keeper Pat Conte far post to make it 4-0. For his work, Leibbrandt received the rest of the day off in preparation for Saturday.
“When he scored the fourth goal I looked up at the clock and saw we still had over 30 minutes and I thought oh my goodness that is unbelievable,” said head coach Phil Wolf. “That was great getting to see it especially the way we did it crossing. I thought that was a really positive thing we could take out of it.”
Azusa Pacific, the top-seed in Region II, continued to show its knack for goals when Kris Van Houten rifled home a loose ball in the box in the 42nd minute for the fifth goal of the afternoon.
In the second half, the Cougars unveiled the return of GSAC Player of the Year Andriy Budnyy who nearly scored moments upon entering. He hit a shot from 25 yards out that forced Conte to dive far to his right to save. He was able to flick it away but Budnyy had made his presence immediately known.
Minutes later Brandon Stirm received a through ball from Donny Dequine and found the back of the net. It was Stirm’s fifth goal of the year and Dequine’s first assist.
Budnyy wrapped up the scoring with a goal from 15 yards out in the 83rd minute.
“I think from the very beginning we knew the team could be potent and that we would be good going forward,” said Wolf. “I often times have told my guys that if we could defend them we are going to make goals. I think it’s a tribute to the guys and their abilities.”
The scoring outburst also marked the fifth time this season that the Cougars have scored at least 7 goals in a game.
Azusa Pacific will now gear up to play Biola, the seventh seed, who upended Point Loma Nazarene, 2-1. The Cougars defeated the Eagles with a Budnyy golden goal in the game’s 101st minute, 3-2. They meet in the Region II semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 1 p.m. at the Azusa Square.
“It’s crazy because we have so much potential to score,” Simon said. “It doesn’t matter who plays.”