FRESNO, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team continued a pair of impressive runs in its 2-1 defeat of Fresno Pacific on Thursday night. With the victory the Cougars extended their winning streak over the Sunbirds to 13 matches, but more importantly pushed their current winning streak to six, improving to 8-2 in Pacific West Conference play.
Azusa Pacific (9-5; 8-2) got goals from Emily Wood, who opened the scoring when she buried a penalty kick early in the first half, and Natalie Sun, while the Cougar defense held Fresno Pacific (4-5-4; 4-3-3) to just one shot in the match.
“If you took our previous five games and then tonight’s, I think we played better in the five. With that said you have to give Fresno Pacific credit. Their midfield played really well and gave us some trouble,” said head coach Jason Surrell. “It’s a tough trip. You drive up and play, and sometimes the legs aren’t there, but it’s a win and we did what we wanted to do.”
Azusa Pacific, which has outscored opponents 17-2 over the past six contests, outshot the Sunbirds 10-1, and put nine of the attempts on goal after dominating possession from start to finish.
“I think we’ve been on the right track since the Grand Canyon match. The team has come together and obviously by winning six in a row we’re doing something right,” said Surrell.
In the first half Azusa Pacific took just three shots, which included Wood’s PK, which was set up by Sun, who was fouled in the box in the 7th minute to set up a 1-0 lead for the Cougars. The Sunbirds, however, took advantage of a rare defensive mistake by Azusa Pacific as Demi Hamilton got past a trio of defenders to score far post from the left side of the box.
In the second half the Cougar offense continued to press the Sunbird defense, tallying eight shots, including Sun’s game-winning goal at the 74 minute mark. On the play Wood passed the ball to Amanda Hardy along the right side of the field. She then beat a Fresno Pacific defender before crossing it to Sun for an easy score right in front of the goal.
“We felt a little too predictable in the first half so we made some changes and tried to stretch things out a little bit and it seemed to work,” said Surrell. “It was good to see Natalie score the winner. We work on that play time and time again, and it was nice to see it happen at such a crucial time.”
The Cougars had multiple chances to increase their lead, most notably when Visalia native Heidi Witschi, who had half of the fans in attendance rooting for her, nearly scored on a rifle from the top of the box. But her shot was just barely tipped by Sarah King, who recorded seven saves in the match, deflecting off the bar.
Witschi put both of her shots on goal, while all three of Sun’s attempts were on frame. Daniella Perez, Shannon Righetti, and Logan Chan each registered a shot on goal.
Azusa Pacific moves into second place in the PacWest with 24 points, but still remains behind Point Loma and Grand Canyon in the loss column. The Antelopes have a 7-1-2 conference record, while the Sea Lions are 7-1-1. The Cougars will look to improve on their current winning streak on Saturday when they travel to Belmont, Calif. for an afternoon tilt against Notre Dame de Namur.