IRVINE, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific didn’t allow any first-half shots in a 3-0 win that snapped No. 25-ranked Concordia’s 6-game unbeaten streak Wednesday afternoon in Irvine. The victory was the fifth win in the past 6 games for the Cougars, who have played 5 NAIA Top 25-ranked opponents in those 6 contests.
“We always feel like the most dangerous games in this league are the weekday games on the road,” Cougar head coach Jason Surrell said. “I was really pleased with how well we played from start to finish today. There are still areas where we can get better and pay attention to some of the details of what we’re trying to do, but being such a young team, I couldn’t be more pleased with today’s effort.”
Sophomore forward Heidi Witschi scored within 15 minutes of the opening whistle, just the second goal scored on the Eagles since Sept. 2. The Cougars expanded their 1-0 halftime lead within 15 minutes of the second half with freshman defender Allie Stone’s first collegiate goal, which was followed 4 minutes later by junior midfielder Brittany Flanagan’s 63rd-minute score for the final 3-0 margin.
Witschi’s goal, her third of the season, was set up by a deep cross from sophomore midfielder Markie Gleason, and Witschi became the seventh different player to score a game-winning goal for Azusa Pacific this year with her 14th-minute score.
After spending the entire opening half fending off the Cougars’ relentless attack to go into halftime trailing by just a single goal, Concordia managed its first shot of the game just past the 52-minute mark. By that point Azusa Pacific had already fired away 8 times at the Eagle goal, plus the Cougars had been whistled offside 5 times before Flanagan’s 59th-minute corner kick was knocked into goal by Stone at the back post to make it a 2-0 advantage.
Within minutes of Stone’s goal, sophomore forward Natalie Sun hit the left post with a shot that rebounded to Witschi, whose follow-up attempt inside the box rolled wide right of the goal. Less than a minute later, Witschi ran onto a ball at the top of the box that pulled the Concordia goalkeeper away from the net and led Flanagan towards the goal for a sliding 5-yard touch into the empty net.
“All of our attacking players are more than capable of scoring goals,” Surrell said. “We can come at teams from a lot of different angles because we have such a balanced group. If we run our system correctly, a lot of different players will get chances, and we saw that happen today.”
Azusa Pacific finished with a 17-3 advantage in total shots, and the Cougars put 11 of those shots on goal in addition to Sun’s strike off the post. The Cougars also had 6 corner kicks, including the one that set up Stone’s score. Sophomore goalkeeper Michelle Wieland stopped Concordia’s only shot on goal to register her second straight shutout.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 8-0-2 overall and 3-0-1 in GSAC play, while Concordia drops to 6-3-2 overall and 1-1-1 in the GSAC. The Cougars return to action with back-to-back home games, starting with Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. matchup with Biola.