AZUSA, Calif. -- You wouldn’t know it from the scoreboard, but Azusa Pacific’s offense put together an impressive performance in a 1-0 non-conference win over NCAA Division II Colorado Christian University Friday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Cougars generated a myriad of scoring chances, out-shooting Colorado Christian by a 26-2 margin, and junior midfielder Brittany Flanagan converted Azusa Pacific’s 18th shot in the 65th minute for the game’s only score.
Flanagan, whose vicious 12-yard strike early in the second half was denied by a one-handed tip over the bar for 1 of Colorado Christian goalkeeper Liana Signorile’s 8 saves, scored for the game-winner on a chance created by Cougar seniors Jennie Cress and Kelsey Walker. Walker collected a cross from Cress with a defender on her back just a few yards in front of the goal, and she found Flanagan unmarked entering the top of the penalty box for a 15-yard right-footed strike off the inside of the left post and into the back of the net.
Just 7 minutes later, Walker had another near-miss, drilling a shot from the top of the box that sailed just over the top of the bar as the Cougars continued to pepper the Colorado Christian goal with shots as they had throughout the game. Sophomore forward Shannon Righetti curled a hard left-footed shot that required a one-handed punch over the bar from Signorile that led to the last of Azusa Pacific’s 11 corner kicks.
“To generate that many chances, even though there was just 1 that was finished for a goal, is a good sign of this team’s ability to create those opportunities,” Cougar head coach Jason Surrell said. “If it’s late in the season and we aren’t able to score, that would be a different story; with a lot of new players in just the third game of the season, I’ll take it upon myself to give them better opportunities in practice to help us get better at converting those chances into goals.”
In all, 9 different Cougars took shots, led by Flanagan’s match-high 5 that included 3 shots on goal. Azusa Pacific had 13 shots in each half, and Colorado Christian’s 2 shots were also split evenly between both halves. Leah Balcar registered the first Colorado shot over halfway through the opening period, and it was saved by junior goalkeeper Alexa Douglas. Sophomore Michelle Wieland handled the scoreless second half, facing her only shot, a miss wide to the left, in the first 10 minutes of the period.
Sophomore defender Molly Lavin was back in the starting lineup after missing the first 2 games of the season, and she teamed up with freshman Danielle Ross and outside backs Rachael Harding and Delina Papa for a dominant performance by the back four for the Cougars’ first shutout of the season.
“I’m definitely pleased with the defense, and I felt they worked hard and earned it,” Surrell said. “I think Molly’s return to the lineup helped settle us a little bit back there. She has a year of experience in our system, and she’s a good vocal leader on the field; I’d say her presence definitely had a big impact on our ability to get that first shutout.”
Azusa Pacific, now 2-0-1 on the year, has now won 18 straight home games (regular- and post-season) against non-GSAC opponents. The Cougars remain home for another non-conference matchup on Saturday, Sept. 11, when they take on Kansas Wesleyan in a 3:30 p.m. matchup. Colorado Christian falls to 0-1 heading into the second leg of its season-opening swing through Southern California, a Labor Day matchup at Biola.