AZUSA, Calif. -- The number 13 has the most unluckiest of connotations in the western world. Yet 13 also equals the amount of goals Azusa Pacific has scored in its first 2 games – but pay no mind – the offensive performances of the Cougars has no such thing to do with luck. Their explosion of goals is built upon a solid foundation of teamwork, great passing and preparation for timely shots.
For the seventh straight year, the Cougars have been undefeated through their first 2 games. The NAIA's No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific ran roughshod on Ohio Dominican University, 5-0, after delivering a 8-0 onslaught over William Penn (Iowa) last Saturday. The 13 goals in the first 2 games are not a program best but they are rather close to the 15-goal start established by the 1998 NAIA championship squad.
"With our core players returning, we have a good sense of familiarity and rhythm on offense," said Cougar head coach Jason Surrell. "Our midfield has been cohesive as well."
It was a day of milestones as well for Surrell, who earned his 140th career win, and junior forward Theresa Broad, who broke a third-place tie on the all-time Cougar career goals list. Prior to the game, Broad was tied with Chrissy Sanford (2000-01) at 46 goals. Broad scored the first 2 goals of the game, also her first 2 goals of the season, moving her career tally to 48. Former NAIA Player of the Year Kendra Payne (1997-2000) holds the record with 90 goals.
Broad was the engine who warmed up the Cougars offense. In the 27th minute, sophomore midfielder Lynsey Domene delivered a pass just outside the goal box. Broad then dribbled through a line of Panther defenders and released her shot 5 yards to the near post. Just 6 minutes later, Broad provided the Cougars with an insurance goal via a header to the near post. Azusa Pacific had all the goals they needed and entered halftime with a 2-0 lead.
"We have progressed so much from last year's team," said Broad. "Right now, our starting 11 are as strong as ever and it's really exciting."
One mantra evident in the Surrell coaching era is an unwillingness to be satisfied with any lead. So, the Cougars continued on the offensive prowl in the second half. Senior forward Sarah Yoro added the next 2 goals in just a 4-minute span midway through the half. Yoro's first goal was a mini-bicycle kick off a rebound from Ohio Dominican goalkeeper Becky Wlliams, and Yoro's second goal came via a penalty kick. Yoro finished the day with 2 goals and 1 assist.
"Coach told us that this will be the deepest team," said Yoro. "He pushes us hard at practice and it is evident that any spot can be taken on the roster. Anybody can fill anybody else's shoes and we work extra hard at practice to compete for those spots."
For good measure, senior midfielder Mandi Morrow gave the Cougars something to remember as the game concluded. With 3 seconds left in the contest, Morrow took a pass through the middle of the box from sophomore midfielder Kelsey Walker and knocked the ball in the center of the goal post from 10 yards out, capping the Cougars’ 5-goal performance.
While 13 goals off the momentum of 58 team shots is no doubt an impressive 2-game showing for the Cougars, limiting their opponents to just 1 shot may be the biggest indicator of what the Cougars plan to do in their 20th season. The defense is merciless on the opponent's offense, canceling out drives to the goal and clearing the ball to the midfielders and forwards. Quite simply, opponents have not found a way to break into the Cougar goal box.
"Our strength is defense," said Surrell. "We put our focus on that group and we want to have a solid backline."
Ohio Dominican, the 2007 American Mideast conference champion, drops its record to 1-2. Azusa Pacific advances to 2-0 and will face No. 19-ranked Bethel College (Tenn.) Saturday at the Cougar Soccer Complex at 3:30 p.m. The Cougars and Wildcats have only met once before, an encounter in the opening round of the 2004 NAIA Women's Soccer Championship when Bethel sent Azusa Pacific home with a 1-0 defeat.