AZUSA, Calif. -- Jolie Nitta has been a playmaker all season long. Her technical play in the midfield helped her earn a spot on the All-GSAC team earlier in the week and today she showed again why she is such a valuable part of her team.
Nitta scored a goal and assisted on another as the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked Azusa Pacific knocked off Concordia, 2-0, in the opening round of the Region II playoffs. The Cougars advance to the Region II semifinals where they will host the lowest remaining seed on Friday afternoon.
After having beaten the Eagles this past Thursday to claim the GSAC championship, the Cougars were played them again based on its seeding. Concordia had played the Cougars tough last Thursday before falling, 1-0, and Azusa Pacific knew it would have its hands full again.
The Cougars got off to a good start in the 15th minute when Shannon Coe slid a ball on the ground in front of the goal and Nitta, in amongst several defenders, passed it into the lower right corner to make it 1-0. It was a direct reflection of what the team had been working on the day before in practice.
“We practiced shooting drills yesterday and when we play the ball on the ground we don’t have to shoot we can just pass it in,” said Nitta.
While Nitta had gotten the Cougars an early goal the defense remained as stingy as usual allowing just 1 shot in the first half. “We had more energy today and 10 minutes into the second half we really play well,” said head coach Jason Surrell. “If we bring effort and energy like we did today there is a good chance we will make things happen.”
Azusa Pacific was able to sustain a high level of play in part due to its frequent substitutions on an unusually hot day in early November. The team’s depth wore Concordia down as the afternoon progressed.
In the 70th minute, Coe and Nitta worked together again to get the Cougars second goal. Nitta delivered a perfect through ball to a streaking Coe who then scored in a 1-on-1 situation to push the lead to 2-0. It was Coe’s team-leading 16th goal of the season. It was Nitta’s fourth assist.
“Jo is a big time player. She sets people up and can beat people 1-on-1 when she wants,” said Surrell.
Concordia had its best scoring chance in the second half when Kelli Chase cleaned up a loose ball in the box but keeper Jill Colfer was able to make the save en route to her 12th shutout of the season.
The Cougars outshot the Eagles 16-3 for the game including 7-2 on goal. They had several scoring chances in the second half but twice struck the ball high.
With the win, the Cougars advance to the Region II semifinals which they will host on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Their opponent will be the lowest remaining seed after the first round is completed.