AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior forward Heidi Witschi struck gold with two last-minute scores, the first a 90th-minute header that sent the match into overtime and allowed her to score the unlikely game-winner with just one second left on the clock in double-overtime, lifting Azusa Pacific a thrilling 2-1 win over Hawaii Pacific Thursday night.
The Cougars’ chances at victory seemingly slipped away when Hawaii Pacific was awarded a throw-in deep in its own territory with less than 20 seconds to play. Somehow, the Cougars quickly regained possession off the throw-in and in desperation knocked the ball forward towards the Hawaii Pacific goal. Witschi somehow slipped past her defender and touched the ball past the charging goalkeeper and into the net with just one second showing on the clock, setting off a frenzied on-field celebration of the unlikely result.
“It was a team effort, and it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have everybody playing hard until the end,” Witschi said. “I just kept running through and slotted it through past the goalkeeper. The game’s not over until it says zero on the clock.”
Only slightly less dramatic was Witschi’s goal in the final minute of regulation, which tied the game and forced overtime. With less than a minute remaining in regulation, senior Shannon Righetti headed the ball forward from the top of the box, and Witschi was able to head it towards the goal an instant before she was taken down by the goalkeeper. Witschi’s shot skipped forward untouched into the goal, tying the game at 1-1 with just 37 seconds of regulation left.
“They obviously stayed composed, they didn’t panic, and Heidi came through twice for us tonight,” Cougar head coach Jason Surrell said. “I thought we played well, and I thought we were the better team tonight. We controlled the play, and you couldn’t ask a whole lot more than what we did.”
The Cougars piled up a 26-7 shots advantage, including an 8-0 margin in overtime, and Witschi’s scoring plays weren’t even among the best quality of scoring chances generated by Azusa Pacific in the game.
“Obviously, we would have liked to finish a bit more, and we had to fight back from a mistake to allow a goal and a missed penalty,” said Surrell, “but we wanted to continue to keep the ball and do a lot of what we did in the first half. We just needed to get a little more aggressive on crosses, and we wanted to connect a little better with different combinations. The positives are that we moved the ball around well and created shots and opportunities, so now it’s just that final finish we have to work on.”
Although Hawaii Pacific struck first to take the early lead on Megan Fuller’s seventh-minute score, the Sea Warriors pulled down Cougar freshman forward Haley Fisher in the box less than three minutes later for a penalty kick. However, goalkeeper Kiana Kaiwi correctly dove to her right and stopped senior midfielder Lynsey Browne’s shot to preserve the 1-0 lead.
In the 43rd minute, sophomore forward Alyx Williams lifted a soft shot over Kaiwi, but it hit the top of the crossbar and rolled over the goal for another near-miss. Fisher also hit the crossbar from a difficult angle in the 87th minute, and Witschi herself had an uncontested shot on goal from less than 15 yards out in the 51st minute which she placed directly at Kaiwi, who made one of her nine saves in the game to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard.
“Early on we had opportunities,” Witschi said. “We were possessing the ball, and we were playing well. We just kept fighting, and it came eventually for us.”
Eleven of Azusa Pacific’s 26 shots were on goal, with Witschi and senior forward Natalie Sun leading the onslaught with four shots on goal apiece.
With the wild finish, the Cougars even their overall record to 5-5 while improving to 4-2 in PacWest play heading into Monday’s 3:30 p.m. matchup with Holy Names at the Cougar Soccer Complex.