PORTLAND, Ore. -- Junior forward and 2010 NAIA All-American Natalie Sun spent her summer rehabbing from knee surgery after sustaining an injury late in her sophomore season. On Thursday night the Cougars were thankful for her sacrifice.
Less than two minutes into overtime, Sun provided the game-winning “golden goal” for Azusa Pacific, scoring the second of two late goals that lifted the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Cougars to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Trinity Western (B.C.) Thursday afternoon.
"Mentally we stayed in the game and fought back...I was really happy about that," said Head Coach Jason Surrell.
The Cougars out-shot Trinity Western in Thursday’s season opener, 17-11, but the Spartans struck first after a scoreless opening half, taking a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the second half when Colleen Webber capitalized on a Trinity Western corner kick for the game’s first score.
Freshman forward Shannon Hardy delivered the equalizer in the 80th minute, firing from 16 yards out into the upper left corner on a chance created by junior defender Allysa Hinton’s long cross from left to right. Freshman forward Amanda Hardy also assisted on the equalizer, which sent the game to extra time.
The Cougars took the only two shots of overtime, and Sun’s game-winner was assisted by freshman defender Logan Chan and junior midfielder Jacqueline Conforto. The score was Sun's third shot on goal in the game, and fourth attempt of the match.
The win highlighted Azusa Pacific's depth; one of the Cougars' many strengths.
First year players Allysa Hinton, Amanda Hardy, Shannon Hardy, Logan Chan, and Kendra Trifonovitch all registered over 30 minutes apiece, while contributing one goal and three combined assists.
"We feel like we've got a deep team. In the second half we were just trying to keep people fresh," said Surrell after Azusa Pacific saw 17 Cougars play in the opener. "The offense wasn't quick, but those things happen early in the season."
The victory opened up the action of the Concordia (Ore.) Cavalier Classic at Portland’s Delta Park, where Azusa Pacific meets up with the NAIA’s top-ranked and three-time defending national champion Lee (Tenn.) University in a rematch of last year’s national semifinals to continue the annual series between the programs for the seventh consecutive season.