AZUSA, Calif. -- For over 60 minutes, the NAIA’s top-ranked Azusa Pacific and its goalkeeper Jill Colfer-Martinson didn’t even face a shot, but her lone save with less than 6 minutes to play in the game preserved her program-record 37th shutout, a 2-0 victory over Graceland (Iowa) Saturday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex. The previous record was held by Melissa Strother, who recorded 36 shutouts in 4 seasons from 2000-03.
“I hadn’t really thought about the record that much,” said the senior goalkeeper, “but I’m glad to be able to do it at home and to be able to keep on moving forward with it. Just because you break a record doesn’t mean you stop there, you have to set it higher.”
Just over 20 minutes into the game, Graceland’s first shot attempt sailed high over the goal, but Azusa Pacific held the Yellowjackets without another shot until the 84th minute, when another Graceland shot missed high again. A long shot attempt with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game was controlled by Colfer-Martinson, and her Cougar teammates took care of the rest, generating a 17-3 shots advantage for the game.
“It’s a good game for the team when I don’t get a touch on the ball,” said Colfer. “That’s a credit to the players in front of me. You always have to talk and pay attention to what’s going on, because if you start to relax, that’s when mistakes usually happen. You have to be into the game mentally, even if you’re not as physically involved.”
Much of the scoreless first half took place with Graceland packed into its own side of the midfield stripe, and the Yellowjackets were able to limit Azusa Pacific to just 6 shots before halftime.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Azusa Pacific earned its fifth corner kick of the game, but unlike the first 4 that were played directly into the box, Lynsey Domene played the ball short to Karen Lawrence along the left side. Lawrence’s cross to the back post found the head of Bridget Brotherton, who finished the chance to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the 59th minute.
“It’s always nice to get the first one, so you can get into a rhythm,” said Brotherton. “(The corner kick) got the ball coming in from a different angle, and I guess they weren’t ready for it. They were scrambling around a little bit, and I was able to put it in at the back post.”
Brotherton hit the post on another header attempt just 3 minutes later, but Azusa Pacific continued generating quality chances. In the 66th minute, Katie Rorabaugh played over the top of the Yellowjacket defense, and Theresa Broad chased it down to send the ball in front of the goal from the right side. Domene controlled it in front of the goal and fired it into the net from 5 yards out to provide the Cougars with an insurance goal with less than 25 minutes to play in the game.
“Obviously, when they’re playing with so many numbers back, it makes it difficult,” said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. “I thought we finally started connecting, and it’s starting to come together for us. We actually looked like we knew what we were doing in the second half.”
Still, it was Colfer-Martinson’s day to savor, and although the game didn’t provide her with any opportunities to make the spectacular save, it was a typical performance from a Cougar program that has out-shot its opponents by a 1,267-475 margin over the past 4 seasons.
“I think Jill would be the first one to tell you that the players who have played in front of her have been amazing,” said Surrell, “but at the same time, when the big moment arrives, she always seems to handle it really well. She can sit back there for 90 minutes and all of a sudden be tested, but she’ll be ready. That’s Jill in a nutshell. She’s had a great career, and she’s been a great keeper for us.”
Colfer-Martinson has been a constant presence in the Azusa Pacific goal during that time, starting 63 of the Cougars’ 67 games since 2004, including the last 50 in a row.
“We knew Jill was coming to us at a pretty high level (out of high school), and we hope that any keeper we bring in will improve with 4 years of training,” said Cougar assistant coach Scott Mocabee, a 9-year assistant who works primarily with the goalkeepers. “There’s still a lot of things we’ll try to work on, and she’s committed to continue to try to get better. She’s got some other goals this year, team goals and individual goals that were set out for her. (The shutout record) wasn’t really even on the radar when this season started.”
With Colfer-Martinson in goal, Azusa Pacific has not surrendered more than 10 goals in a single season in her career, posting a 0.44 career goals against average to date that would also shatter the current Cougar career record of 0.59, also held by Strother.
“It’s exciting, but it’s more of a testament to the coaching and the players who have played in front of me for the past 4 years,” said Colfer-Martinson. “They do most of the work, and I just try to come up with a save when needed.”
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-0-1 and extends its home unbeaten streak to 27 games, while Graceland drops to 2-2 on the season. The Cougars pay a visit to Columbia, Ky., where they will face the NAIA’s second- and third-ranked women’s soccer teams at the home of defending NAIA champion Lindsey Wilson. Azusa Pacific opens the weekend against No. 3-ranked Lee (Tenn.) on Friday, Sept. 14, then takes on Lindsey Wilson on Saturday, Sept. 15 in a rematch of the 2006 national title game.