AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific wasted no time setting the tone for a 5-0 home win over Hope International that clinched sole possession of the Cougars’ third straight Golden State Athletic Conference championship.
“Anytime you set out and begin a season, the conference championship is something you want,” said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. “To get it with 1 game left is great, because now we have the flexibility to rest some players and not have to worry about it.”
Just over a minute into the game, sophomore forward Theresa Broad’s header was saved by Hope International goalkeeper Rebecca Dixon, and senior midfielder Randie Massro’s follow off the rebound skipped over the crossbar. Even though neither shot found the back of the net, both Broad and Massro would each tally first-half scores en route to the win.
“I knew what it felt like as a freshman (to not win the conference), and after that I just wanted it,” said Massro, who has started all 78 games of her career for Azusa Pacific. “I could have looked at it like I had 3 more years to win one, but in my mind, I only had 3 years to win it every year. Now that I’m a senior, I want the rest of the team to want it like I do. When I was younger, I wanted to work hard for the seniors on my team, and I hope the team now feels the same way about me.”
Not even 5 minutes later, a cross from the right side was mishandled in the goal area, and with the ball at her feet, Massro got just enough of a foot on a low shot from 5 yards out that trickled through Dixon’s hands across the goal line, giving Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead just 5-and-a-half minutes into the game.
“That goal definitely wasn’t the best goal I’ve ever scored,” said Massro of her 14th career goal. “I think I just got my last cleat on it, but it was good to get a goal in my last (regular season) home game as a senior.”
Broad, who had another header from the right side skim over the top of the crossbar just past the 10-minute mark, doubled the Cougar lead to 2-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Broad dribbled from the midfield into space in the penalty box to the left of the goal, then fired a shot that Dixon was able to deflect upwards, but the shot struck the bottom of the crossbar and bounced down across the goal line to give Azusa Pacific a 2-0 lead in the 36th minute.
Midway through the second half, junior forward Bridget Brotherton scored back-to-back goals in a 6-minute span. In the 68th minute, Brotherton took the ball away from a Royals defender, then dribbled to the top of the penalty box and curled in a shot to the near post to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead. In the 73rd minute, Brotherton recorded another unassisted goal, sending another long drive over the goalkeeper from 25 yards out to extend the advantage to 4-0.
“It’s nice to put a couple in and get back to the way I felt before (my injury),” said Brotherton, who missed 4 weeks of action earlier in the year. “Coach has been encouraging us to take our space and take on the defender. I got a little space, so I decided to go for the upper corner. On the second goal, I had a lot of space and no one was pressuring me. I decided the first one worked, so I might as well try it again.”
Freshman Jasmine De La Fuente rounded out the scoring with 4-and-a-half minutes left in regulation with her first collegiate goal, another high drive over the goalkeeper that gave the Cougars a 5-0 lead.
Senior goalkeeper Jill Colfer-Martinson faced just 2 shots all game as Azusa Pacific spent much of the game on the attack, and she saved the only shot that made it on goal to post her seventh shutout in 9 GSAC games this season. Colfer-Martinson extended her program-record career shutout total to 44.
“It’s a good personal accomplishment, but as I’ve said before, it’s my team that does most of the work for me,” said Colfer-Martinson. “Every game we play, it’s my personal goal and a team goal to shut out the opponent. I think we’re building on each game and each practice. We still have things we can improve on, but we’re getting there.”
The conference title is Azusa Pacific’s third straight and sixth in the past 8 seasons, all under Surrell, who has guided the Cougars to a 66-5-5 conference mark since 2000.
With the win, Azusa Pacific extends its program-record home unbeaten streak to 32 games, improving to 9-0 in GSAC play and 13-1-1 overall. Hope International drops to 2-6-1 in GSAC, 8-7-2 overall. The Cougars wrap up the regular season with a visit to Vanguard this Saturday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. Azusa Pacific has also clinched home-field advantage for an NAIA Region II first-round playoff game next Tuesday, Oct. 30, which is tentatively scheduled for a 1 p.m. start time.