AZUSA, Calif.-- After an offensive explosion against San Diego Christian on Saturday, the NAIA’s No. 6 ranked Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team followed it up with a 2-0 win over No. 13 Concordia on Wednesday as the Cougars have seemingly put their offensive woes behind them.
“I think we played well today,” said junior forward Natalie Sun, who scored the first goal for the Cougars. “We’re starting to connect more as a team and working together off the ball.”
Azusa Pacific (10-2-1; 6-2) looked good offensively, putting eight of its 11 shots on goal while earning six corner kicks as the Cougars improved to 20-0-1 all-time against the Eagles.
In the first half Natalie Nick tried to ignite the offense when she found Danielle Ross off a corner. But Ross’ header landed right in the arms of Concordia’s Megan Ferry in the 10th minute.
Six minutes later Nick sent a ball into the box from near the midfield line where Sun calmly gathered it, turned, and placed it right-post from near the penalty area to give the Cougars a quick 1-0 lead.
“I think that’s the most composed I’ve ever been,” said Sun about her score.
In the 20th minute Heidi Witschi nearly gave the team a 2-0 advantage when she whistled one towards the nearside from 30 yards on the left of the box, but Ferry was able to wrangle it in for one of her six saves on the day.
The chances kept coming for the Cougars as Sun raced down the left sideline before crossing it to Brittany Flanagan who quickly gave it off to a sprinting Amanda Hardy just outside the box. Hardy then planted and struck it with her right foot, sending a screamer towards the goal, but Ferry was there yet again to keep the Eagle deficit at one.
In the first half Azusa Pacific outshot Concordia 6-1 and put five shots on goal compared to one for visiting team. During the match the NAIA released the latest RPI (which is used to determine at-large bids for postseason play), and the rankings put Azusa Pacific at No. 3 and Concordia at No. 4; adding to the importance of the match.
Out of the break the Cougars continued to give themselves opportunities as Sun crossed it to Witschi for a wide-open look in the center of the box. But the junior’s header traveled over the bar to keep it a one-score match.
In the 57th minute the Eagles nearly tied it up when their leading scorer, Loren Kortizija, hooked it towards the goal from 25 yards out. But Michelle Wieland wrapped it up for her second of four saves in the match.
On the following possession Azusa Pacific earned another corner. On the play Nick crossed it to the far side into a crowd of Cougars before Markie Gleason got her head on it five yards out and tucked just inside the near post for her first goal of the season and a commanding two-score lead.
“We’ve worked on that play a lot,” said Gleason. “I was just where I was supposed to be.”
The lead would hold up as Wieland captured her sixth shutout of the season. Azusa Pacific has now held the Eagles scoreless for the fourth consecutive time.
With the win the Cougars remain in second place in the GSAC standings as the team’s focus begins to shift towards the postseason.
“It feels really good,” said Gleason. “Coach [Surrell] told us the importance of this game going in…we’re just really happy about it.
With just one match remaining in the regular season the Cougars will travel to Hope International for the program’s final regular GSAC contest on Saturday.
Following the game Azusa Pacific will compete in the GSAC Tournament, where they’ll host a quarterfinal, and likely a semifinal, matchup before the NAIA announces the championship tournament draw.