AZUSA, Calif.-- In what could be the final matchup between two of the most storied NAIA programs the No. 3 ranked Azusa Pacific used two first half goals to propel the Cougars to a 3-0 win over No. 12 Westmont, giving Head Coach Jason Surrell his 200th career win as the women’s coach. Surrell reached the milestone quicker than any other NAIA coach (in terms of matches played; 246), and his current winning percentage of .849 is the second highest in the history of NAIA women’s soccer (Lyndsey Wilson's Drew Burwash is No. 1 at .850).
“I’ve coached for a while, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to coach so many great players over the years,” said Surrell, playing down the significance of the achievement. “I feel the greater [feat] is that we beat the No. 12 team in the country.”
The Cougars, who have struggled to make the most of their opportunities so far this season, looked motivated early on. In the 8th minute Natalie Sun fed Heidi Witschi on a perfect cross, but the Junior’s attempt sailed over the post. Sun then had a good opportunity taken away in the 10th after she was whistled offsides.
On the other side of the field Lynsey Browne kept the score knotted at zeros when she cleared an indirect kick that looked destined for a Warrior score. Molly Lavin pitched in as well, stopping Aolani Rueff’s shot in the 24th minute on the left side of the box.
Her effort led to a Cougar transition that saw Sun beat the backline of the defense to get an open look off an Emily Wood pass. The junior forward took it from there to get a clean shot in the box, placing right-side past a helpless Lindsey Smith to give Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute.
Later in the half Natalie Nick served a perfect ball off an indirect free to Lavin who then headed it in from 10 yards out, giving the Cougars a 2-0 lead in the 35th minute. The assist was Nick's fifth of the year (team-high) and the goal was Lavin’s team-leading fourth of the season as Azusa Pacific went into the break with a 2-0 advantage. The Cougars outshot the Warriors 7-5 in the first 45 minutes, as both teams put three shots on frame.
In the second half freshman forward Shannon Hardy added to the Cougar cushion when she headed in a deflection after Westmont failed to clear a corner from Nick in the 49th minute.
“I just wanted to keep moving. Nick had a great ball and [we] had a great touch,” said Hardy about her third career score.
Led by Markie Gleason the defense, which is under-praised and often overlooked, grabbed the reigns as Azusa Pacific held Westmont without a shot in the second half, giving Michelle Wieland her fourth shutout in five starts this year as the Cougars won 3-0.
Wieland recorded three saves in the match, while nine different players registered shots for the Cougars.
The win was especially sweet as it came against a program that has given Surrell fits over the years. As a head coach he is 11-6-2 against the Warriors, but when you combine his days as a player and assistant his all-time clip against Westmont is 14-19-3. In fact, Westmont is the only GSAC program to have a winning record against Azusa Pacific (26-19-4) even though the Cougars have dominated the rivalry as of late, winning nine of the last 11 dating back to 2003.
“It’s pretty [awesome], they’ve been our biggest rival,” said assistant coach Scott Mocabee, who has been by Surrell’s side for all 200 wins. “It was pretty sweet to get a win like that today.”
Inside Surrell’s 200 Wins
In Surrell’s 12 seasons at the helm his teams have never posted a losing record. In fact, the Cougars have never dropped more than four matches in a single year, and have recorded double-digit win totals in each season, winning 20+ twice (’06-’07).
Under his guidance Azusa Pacific has strung together eight 10+ match unbeaten streaks, including a 21 consecutive-game stretch in Surrell’s inaugural campaign. Conversely, his Cougars have recorded only one in-season losing streak; a quick two-match skid in 2003.
What may be most impressive about Surrell’s career is that he’s managed to win at an unprecedented clip in arguably the toughest conference in the NAIA. Even with that competition Surrell hasn’t gone the route of scheduling cupcakes as 58 wins have been over ranked opponents. He also didn’t get to the double-century mark with a schedule loaded with home games as 95 of the victories have either been on the road or a neutral site.
Of his 200 W's, nearly half have been blowouts as his Cougars have won 99 by three or more goals. Azusa Pacific has also done well in the close ones, notching 59 victories (15 in overtime) by a single score.
Surrell’s teams have scored 674 goals in 246 games (2.74 per match) and have given up only 140 goals in that span (0.57 GAA). Even more impressive is that the Cougars have recorded 139 shutouts, notching a clean-sheet in 56 percent of Azusa Pacific’s matches.
On the flip side, his Cougars have been denied of a goal just 20 times, meaning that Azusa Pacific has been shutout once in every 12.3 matches while holding opponents scoreless once every 1.78 contests. But his teams haven’t just happened upon shutouts, it’s one of the coach’s cornerstones.
“The goals against average is a testament to the hard work that goes into team defending from the first day of training camp. Defenders are not only responsible for a shutout. It’s the whole team,” said former player and current assistant Shannon Jenkins. “ Jason teaches the players that we defend as a team and that is what has led to the defensive success.”
Individually his players have dominated the GSAC awards list; accounting for 64 all-GSAC selections, and eight GSAC player of the year awards; helping him to be recognized as GSAC coach of the year seven times.
“His expectations for his players are the highest of any coach that we coach against. He pretty much demands perfection,” said Mocabee. “He gets absolutely every ounce of energy and skill out his players.”
Nationally the Cougars have been mainstays on NAIA all-American lists totaling for 48 (24 first team) all-American honors, 21 NAIA all-tournament recipients, four NAIA Championship players of the year (two offensive and two defensive), and one NAIA National player of the year (Andrea Alfiler). His women have recorded 24 hat tricks in his tenure, including two by current assistant Shannon Jenkins (formerly Coe) in 2005.
“He knows how to motivate each player,” said Jenkins. “He's learned what each player requires in order to fire them up and push them to reach their potential both in practice and during a game.”
“He’s really passionate. He puts in a lot of time and effort. He’s the first one here and the last one out. He’s the driving force,” said Gleason.
Surrell currently ranks No. 8 in the NAIA among active coaching wins, and stands at No. 2 in all-time winning percentage (.849). His 200-wins rank 11th on the NAIA Women’s Soccer Wins Lists.