COLUMBIA, Ky. -- Nearly 10 months after suffering a 4-overtime defeat to Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in the 2006 NAIA championship, the NAIA’s top-ranked Azusa Pacific ended up reliving the nightmare in nearly identical fashion, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Blue Raiders Saturday night in Columbia, Ky.
The Cougars were already playing at less than full strength due to the loss of junior forward Bridget Brotherton, the team’s leading goal scorer through the first 5 games of the season, who was carried off the field with an unspecified injury in the second half of Friday’s 3-2 win over No. 2-ranked Lee (Tenn.). Yet midway through the first half, Azusa Pacific lost the services of junior defender Karen Lawrence, the 2006 NAIA Tournament’s Outstanding Defensive Player, when she left the game with an injury and did not return.
“We faced a better team tonight,” said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. “I didn’t think we possessed as well as we did last night, but at the same time, they were a part of the reason for that. Having a couple of our players go down doesn’t help.”
Less than 10 minutes later, the Blue Raiders capitalized, as Kimmia Parker advanced deep into the Cougar penalty area on a pass from Sashsheena Stewart along the left side. Parker buried the shot to the left side of the goal, giving the Blue Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Despite the setbacks, the Cougars put together an aggressive attack that featured a 9-4 shots advantage in the opening half. However, Azusa Pacific was whistled for 15 fouls in the first 45 minutes, including 3 injury stoppages in which Lindsey Wilson players returned to the field within a minute of the restart, compared to just 5 fouls called on the Blue Raiders in the first half.
“This was a good game for us,” said Surrell. “It’s away against the No. 3-ranked team, the defending national champs – a 1-0 loss isn’t a bad result. I thought we had some good chances in the first half, and if one of those falls for us, it’s a different game. I thought it was a fairly even game, and they got one to drop for them.”
In all, 44 fouls were called, 29 charged to Azusa Pacific to 15 for Lindsey Wilson, although 3 of the 4 yellow cards issued went to Blue Raiders players. The result was a choppy pace that ultimately kept both teams from generating many quality scoring opportunities. The Cougars went the final 13 minutes without a shot, while Lindsey Wilson went the final 9 minutes with only 1 shot.
In the closing seconds, Azusa Pacific mounted 1 final attack. As the Cougars quickly advanced forward, Lindsey Wilson was whistled for a foul just before time expired. The officiating crew determined 1 second to be put on the clock for a Cougar free kick from about 40 yards out. Katie Rorabaugh’s shot curled well before the near post, ending the game and sending Lindsey Wilson into a spirited celebration in front of the Azusa Pacific bench.
With the defeat, Azusa Pacific falls to 4-1-1 on the season, dropping 2 straight to Lindsey Wilson for the first time after winning 4 and tying once in the first 5 meetings between the programs. The Blue Raiders improved to 5-0-1 in their campaign to defend their national crown. The Cougars will host their annual alumni game on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m., before returning to game action with the Golden State Athletic Conference opener, a Wednesday, Sept. 26 visit to Fresno Pacific.