SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.-- It may not have been their prettiest match, but after opening the season with three straight road losses the Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team will take it. Lynsey Browne scored the game-winning goal, while the Cougars out-shout Academy of Art University 23-4 to post the first Pacific West Conference win in Azusa Pacific history after ending a dominating 19-year run in the Golden State Athletic Conference in which the Cougars won 10 GSAC championships.
Last season Azusa Pacific dropped its conference opener to Point Loma after going 8-0-3 in GSAC openers in head coach Jason Surrell’s previous 11 seasons, but today the Cougars looked more like the team that had posted an 86 percent winning percentage in the Surrell era, than the one that started the season with a 1-3 record.
“Obviously it’s the way you want to start. Getting a road win is always big, especially with how we’ve done so far this year,” said Surrell. “I thought the first half was good and the second half wasn’t. We’ve got to do a better job working together as a group if we want to have a chance on Saturday. The big challenge for us is playing opponents that we’re not too familiar with. I feel like we had a good game plan, but when you haven’t seen them play you have to make adjustments as you go. So I was happy to come away with a win even though I wasn’t thrilled with our performance.”
The Cougars tallied the first 11 shots of the match, and behind a strong defensive effort from Allie Stone and the rest of the backline, held the Urban Knights (2-3, 0-1) without an attempt through the first 38 minutes as Azusa Pacific dominated possession throughout the opening frame. In the second half Art U tripled its shot total, posting three, including an equalizing attempt in the 89th minute, which was saved by Michelle Wieland for her lone stop of the afternoon.
The Cougars got six shots from Heidi Witschi, who was sharp, putting three on frame, while both of Natalie Sun’s attempts were on target. Azusa Pacific finished with seven shots on goal on 23 attempts and limited the Urban Knights to one shot on goal on four shots while playing in its third consecutive match on turf.
In the first half the Cougars (2-3, 1-0) rattled off nine shots in the first 15 minutes. Logan Chan opened the attack, having her first of three shots saved by Rachael Rempe just 42 seconds after the opening kick. In the fifth minute Sun got off a good look, but had it saved, before Witschi had her first attempt blocked. Browne continued the Cougar press in the sixth minute when her first shot of the day sailed wide of the goal.
Azusa Pacific’s relentless attack continued in the 11th when Witschi recorded her second shot, followed by her third in the 14th minute and fourth in the 15th, keeping the Urban Knight’s keeper Remper busy from the get-go. In the 23rd minute Browne finally broke through for the first goal of the match when she settled a ball along the right side and placed it far post from 15 yards out for her first goal of the season.
Over the rest of the half the Cougars registered a pair of shots, but had to settle for a one-goal lead at the break. In the second half Art U couldn’t muster much of an attack, but did manage to create a decent look in the 89th minute, but Wieland, who posted her 28th career shutout, was there for the save to preserve a 1-0 Cougar win in the first meeting between the two schools.
The victory marked the first win in Azusa Pacific history as members of the Pacific West Conference, and broke a two-year win drought in conference openers for Surrell. The Cougars will have a chance to get their record back to even on Saturday when they travel to San Rafael for the program’s first-ever contest with Dominican.