IRVINE, Calif. -- Head coach Jason Surrell couldn’t remember the last time his team had faced a 3-1 deficit. That’s because he’s coached 179 games since a 3-1 defeat to Cal State Fullerton on August 29, 2000, just his third game at the helm of Azusa Pacific’s women’s soccer program. However, senior forward Bridget Brotherton revived the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Cougars with her first career hat trick, delivering the game-winning “golden goal” just 2-and-a-half minutes into overtime to complete the improbable come-from-behind 4-3 win over No. 24-ranked Concordia Tuesday.
“Our girls don’t panic, regardless of the situation,” Surrell said. “I don’t know the last time we were down 3-1, but there was no panic in us. When we got that second goal, the momentum had already started to turn. Our ability to stay focused in the moment was key.”
Brotherton put away the game-winner on a diving header, finishing a cross from junior forward Theresa Broad, extending Azusa Pacific’s Golden State Athletic Conference winning streak to a program-record 25 games.
“We got the side we wanted in the overtime, and Bridget had an absolutely brilliant goal, a diving header off a great cross from Theresa,” Surrell said. “This wasn’t her best game in terms of the run of play, but man, she was hungry around the box and that’s definitely what Bridget does best. She just goes out, and whether it’s in the air or on the ground, she always gives you a great effort. She had some really great diving headers for goals today.”
Brotherton opened the scoring in the 24th minute, putting away the rebound off a free kick, but Concordia evened the game with just under 6 minutes to play in the opening half when Annelise O’Doherty headed a Monica Haynes cross into goal to send the game into halftime knotted at 1-1. Kristi Nottinham and Monica Haynes scored 5 minutes apart to push the Eagles’ lead to 3-1 in the 58th minute, making Concordia 1 of just 4 teams to score 3 goals on Azusa Pacific during Surrell’s 184-game tenure over the past 9 seasons.
“In the past few years, when we’ve been down a goal or two, I’ve had no doubt in my mind that we could come back,” Brotherton said. “I think we’ve struggled with that this year. We’ve only been down a couple times, so this was a good test for us. As soon as they scored their third goal, we thought, ‘Okay, here we go now.’ Something just changed, and we were down their throats the last part of the second half.”
Azusa Pacific, playing without the services of senior forward Sarah Yoro due to an automatic 1-game red-card suspension, shifted junior defender Katie Rorabaugh to the front, and the Cougars wasted little time moving into attack mode.
“A Tuesday game on the road is always the hardest, in my mind,” Surrell said. “You only get 1 day after the weekend to regroup, and then you’ve got to travel and get yourself ready to go. They put us down 3-1, so we moved Katie up front and then the whole game changed. We were all over them the rest of the game.”
Sophomore midfielder Lynsey Domene put a shot on goal in the 63rd minute, resulting in an Azusa Pacific corner kick. Brotherton’s diving header off Domene’s 64th-minute corner kick found its target, and less than 6 minutes after Concordia had taken its 3-1 lead, the Cougars were back within a goal at 3-2.
“As soon as we scored our second goal, we felt like we could get the tying goal,” Brotherton said. “I saw our confidence level rise after that goal. I was glad to be able to contribute in a time when we really needed it.”
Broad, the GSAC’s runaway scoring leader with 19 goals, was hounded by a Concordia defense bent on keeping her out of the scoring column. However, the strategy backfired in the 82nd minute, when Broad was fouled in the box, giving Azusa Pacific a chance to tie the game with a penalty kick. Rorabaugh buried the chance, beating Concordia goalkeeper Jamie Carney to the right for the equalizer.
Concordia missed 2 quick chances wide of the goal in the following 2 minutes, and neither team got a shot off over the final 6 minutes of play, sending the game to overtime. Carney finished with a game-high 8 saves for the Eagles, all in regulation.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 12-1 overall, 7-0 GSAC, and the Cougars maintain their 1-game lead over California Baptist for first place in the GSAC standings with 3 games remaining on the conference schedule. Concordia drops to 6-4-3 overall, 2-3-3 GSAC. Azusa Pacific is home for 2 of its final 3 regular-season contests, beginning Saturday, Oct. 25, when the Cougars host Point Loma Nazarene.