AZUSA, Calif.- It took the Cougars 28 shots, 11 corners, and nearly 95 minutes, but thanks to a golden goal from Molly Lavin the team escaped with a 1-0 OT win over Rocky Mountain College (Mont.) in the team’s home opener.
In the match's final possession Natalie Nick’s shot bounced off the keeper, giving Lavin the ball 10 yards out. The junior midfielder then placed it right side past RMC’s Malin Johansson to give No. 2 Azusa Pacific (3-0) it’s second OT win on the young season.
“I feel good about it,” said Lavin, who downplayed her golden goal. “I was just cherry picking…it was definitely a team effort.”
The Cougars combined for 14 shots on goal compared to the Bears’ two, and posted 11 corner kicks, while RMC earned only one. Despite the team’s seemingly dominant performance, Azusa Pacific was just one shot away from dropping its first match of the year.
“It’s just one of those days, but we’re happy to be on the winning side of it,” said Head Coach Jason Surrell. “It’s frustrating because you feel like five or six of those could have gone in. I’ve got to give credit to their keeper. She had some phenomenal saves that I don’t know how she made.”
Johansson finished the match with 13 stops, including the save that setup Lavin’s match-winner.
The Cougars had their chances early on after RMC’s Josie Kautsky mishandled the ball deep in her own box in the 3rd minute. Natalie Nick tried to take advantage with a shot from the left side, however her attempt was saved, as would be the theme for most of the day.
Later in the first half Danielle Ross and Brittany Flanagan each had shots denied by the keeper, before Jacqueline Conforto left the field with an apparent injury.
The missed opportunities didn’t end there. Flanagan had a header blocked, while Emily Wood and Nick both had their attempts stopped by the Bears. Nick and Flanagan had two shots on goal apiece, while the Bears failed to notch one in the opening half.
Despite dominating the possession, Azusa Pacific went into the break tied 0-0 after out-shooting RMC 13-1 in the first 45 minutes.
The second half was much of the same, beginning with a header from Natalie Sun that went just right of the post off a cross from Wood. Sun got another shot from the top of the box, but it was saved. Sun continued to give the Cougars a chance as she crossed it to Wood, who tried to bend it in from two yards out of the box, but again the ball flew right of the frame.
Azusa Pacific’s best chance at the lead came with 19:00 minutes to play on a possession that summed up the team’s entire match.
It began with a header from Sun that was saved. Amanda Hardy then controlled the rebound and tried to slot it left side, but was blocked. Flanagan followed that with a shot from inside the box, but it was saved, ending a 15-second sequence that defined nearly 95 minutes of play.
The Cougars failed to get anything else going, and went into overtime for the second time this season.
In the 92nd minute Hardy nearly won it after looping the ball over Johansson, but the freshman forward was whistled offside.
Three minutes later Lavin’s goal gave the Cougars the win, and a healthy sigh of relief.
“I thought we played well, we just didn’t finish well,” said Surrell. “We’re creating opportunities…we’ll keep working on it.”
On the season Azusa Pacific has out-shot opponents 62-26, but have only converted five of those into goals. Michelle Wieland kept the Cougars in the match with two saves and her first shutout of the year.
“It was kind of one of those unlucky games where you’re shooting and shooting and it’s not going in,” said Lavin. “We had a lot of good chances, but we’re happy to get that out of our system.”
Azusa Pacific will have a chance to right the ship on Monday as the team faces Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for a 7:00 p.m. contest on the road.