AZUSA, Calif. -- The last time Westmont wasn’t involved in the NAIA women’s soccer national tournament, Theresa Broad was 7 years old. Twelve years later, Broad scored a pair of goals to lead the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 5-1 win that ended the Warriors’ season prior to national tournament play for the first time since 1995.
“It was definitely motivation for us,” said Broad, the Cougars’ All-GSAC sophomore forward. “I had no clue how often they used to beat us in the past, but (assistant coach) Janay McKinney and (athletic trainer) April Reed told us that Westmont had knocked them out so many times in the past. The thought that we could end their season now was pretty exciting.”
In a 10-year stretch from 1993 to 2002, Westmont ended 7 Azusa Pacific seasons, including 5 straight in the NAIA regionals. The Warriors also knocked off the Cougars in the 2002 national title game.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since they haven’t gone to nationals, but to know that we ended that is a pretty big thing,” said senior midfielder Randie Massro, who earlier this week became the sixth Cougar in the past 8 years to collect GSAC Player of the Year honors. “I was really surprised and shocked (about the award). I almost started tearing up when Coach told me, because I had no idea it was going to be me. It’s a pretty big deal for me, but obviously it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for my team.”
Azusa Pacific piled up a 13-2 shots advantage through the first 40 minutes of the game, but the game remained scoreless thanks in part to Westmont goalkeeper Roxanne Love’s 7 saves to that point. However, with just over 3-and-a-half minutes left before halftime, junior midfielder Sarah Yoro dribbled through and around several Warrior defenders into the left side of the box. Her shot to the far post was out of Love’s reach, and the Cougars took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
“We knew Westmont was going to come out as hard as they could because of the fact that if they lost, their season would be over,” said Yoro, another of the Cougars’ 6 All-GSAC selections. “It was kind of frustrating at first trying to connect. They came out really physical against us. After we got the first one, we got a little bit more momentum. We knew they were going to come out hard, so my mentality was just to keep working hard.”
Less than 9 minutes into the second half, freshman midfielder Lynsey Domene played a through ball to Broad, who split a pair of Westmont defenders and beat Love to the right. Broad’s goal gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead, and in the 59th minute, the Domene-to-Broad conection set up another Azusa Pacific score. Domene played the ball wide to Broad near the right corner of the penalty box, and Broad touched it past the Westmont defenders for a clean shot that beat Love to the right at the near post.
“I thought for the first 10 minutes we were a little out of sorts, but I think from that point on we really settled down and played well,” said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. “I thought our movement off the ball today was really good. We thought ahead quite a bit and got into a bit of a rhythm. We’ve built off the last couple of games, and I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
The scores gave Broad 15 goals on the season, including 13 over the past 11 games. Domene upped her team-leading assist total to 10.
Yoro struck again for her second goal of the game with exactly 31 minutes to play, curling in a shot from 10 yards out after turning the ball completely around to elude the collapsing Westmont defense.
“For this game in particular, Coach was telling me to keep taking the ball and going at them,” said Yoro. “The (coaching staff) keeps telling me my team has so much confidence in me, but I’m finally starting to believe it.”
Westmont’s Amanda Barret scored with less than 7 minutes to play after intercepting a clearance at the top of the box. Barret’s drive from 18 yards out to the right side cut the Azusa Pacific lead to 4-1, but senior midfielder Sara Odenthal’s 25-yard sinking drive from the right side cleared the outstretched fingertips of Love to round out the scoring with a minute and a half to play.
“I got the goal I’ve always wanted, to actually shoot from that far out and not have it go over,” said Odenthal, an All-GSAC midfielder. “They didn’t mark me, and it was nice to have all that space. I saw the goalie going up and I thought she was going to get her fingers on it and tip it over, but it went in.”
Azusa Pacific compiled a 29-5 shots advantage to extend its home unbeaten streak to 33 games.
“I’ve always thought we’re a pretty fit team, but I think our ability to knock the ball around today tired them out,” said Surrell, who picked up his sixth GSAC Coach of the Year award after leading the Cougars to a perfect 10-0 mark in conference play. “We really got in a pretty good rhythm today, and it’s tough to run around and chase for 90 minutes.”
The 5-1 score matched last year’s result when the teams faced off in the NAIA Region II semifinals, and it was just the third 5-goal effort for Azusa Pacific in 44 meetings all-time with the Warriors.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 15-1-1 overall, while Westmont drops to 9-7-2 to finish with less than 10 wins for the first time since 1992. The Cougars advance to the semifinals of the NAIA Region II Playoffs, where they will host NAIA independent Cal State San Marcos on Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m at the Cougar Soccer Complex.