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MTEN: Azusa Pacific advances to @ThePacWest championship match with a 5-0 win over @PLNUSports. Cougars will take on @goseawarriors tomorrow
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Crazy Eight

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Photo by Joe Reinsch
Alyx Williams celebrates with Lynsey Browne and Amanda Hardy after giving the Cougars a 2-0 lead.

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Published
October 23, 2012
By
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team came into Tuesday night with seven straight wins dating back to its last match with Point Loma, while the Sea Lions entered the contest with an even more impressive run; one that saw Point Loma shut out the Cougars in three consecutive contests. But after 90 minutes of play only one of the streaks saw its life continue as Azusa Pacific posted a 2-0 victory for its eighth straight win.

“They’re a good side. They won the GSAC last year and we both got to the (NAIA) Final Four. Any time you beat them you know you’re beating a good opponent and you’ve got to feel good about it,” said head coach Jason Surrell.

Over the past few seasons no opponent, other than Lee (Tenn.), has given the Cougars as much trouble as the Sea Lions. Last year Point Loma won the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title and handed the Cougars their first loss of the season, dropping them from No. 1 in the NAIA rankings.

Later on Azusa Pacific (11-5; 10-2) responded by taking home the GSAC tournament championship on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 0-0 double overtime draw in San Diego before both teams advanced to the NAIA Final Four. This year, in their first meeting as Pacific West Conference foes, Point Loma notched a 2-0 shutout win over the Cougars; giving Surrell his first five-loss season of his impressive 13-year career.

On Tuesday the Cougars appeared to have little trouble with the Sea Lions, controlling the match from the get-go. Azusa Pacific outshot Point Loma (10-3-1; 7-2-1) 14-4 while limiting them to just one shot on goal to post the team’s first victory over Point Loma since 2010; breaking a three-match winless streak.

Azusa Pacific got a first half goal from Allie Stone before Alyx Williams’ header in the second half made it a two-score game. Point Loma posted a season-low four shots, and didn’t put one on target until the 66th minute as Michelle Wieland needed only one save to record her 33rd career shutout. The Cougars out-shot Point Loma 6-2 in the opening frame, and 8-2 in the second, rarely relinquishing control.

“We know their system, we know what they’re doing. We weren’t sharp early, but we got sharper as the game went on. In terms of possession I felt we were the better side tonight,” said Surrell of one of Azusa Pacific’s best all-around performances in 2012.

In the first half Azusa Pacific was aggressive early on, earning three corner kicks in the first five minutes of play. The Cougars got their first good chance when Natalie Sun made a nice play along the end line, looping a shot towards the back of the net before Tiffany Kracy was able to poke it over the bar.

After the initial rush for the Cougars the game transitioned to the middle with neither team getting off a shot for nearly 20 minutes before an Azusa Pacific onslaught began. Sun opened things up again when her fast break shot was stopped by Kracy. Heidi Witschi controlled the rebound, but a Point Loma defender just barely got her foot on it to send it over the bar, forcing a corner kick.

On the corner Emily Wood made the initial shot, with Kracy posting another save. The keeper, however, couldn’t control the shot, allowing Allie Stone to clean up the rebound and put Azusa Pacific up 1-0 with her first goal of the season in the 30th minute. The Cougars went into the break leading 1-0.

In the second half Azusa Pacific registered the first three shots, and nearly made it a 2-0 game wen Sun tried to score off Rachael Harding’s blocked shot, but the senior forward just got under it, sending it over the goal. In the 71st minute Wood almost scored on an impressive shot from 35 yards out, but just as the ball was headed for the upper-v Kracy got her hand on it to force a corner kick.

Azusa Pacific added to its lead in the 78th minute when Natalie Nick’s corner found Williams six yards out on the nearside. The sophomore forward directed the ball near post for her second goal of the season, and giving the stingy Azusa Pacific defense more than enough to work with. The Sea Lions were unable to mount a comeback attempt as Azusa Pacific improved to 6-1 at the Cougar Soccer Complex this season.

In the win the Cougars became the first PacWest team to beat the Point Loma defense for two goals this year. The Sea Lions entered Tuesday’s tilt with a 0.38 goals-against-average and nine shutouts, while allowing just over seven shots per game. The Cougars nearly doubled that shot total with 14, and with their two goals pushed Point Loma’s defensive total from five to seven this season.

The win positions the Cougars nicely in the PacWest standings, with Azusa Pacific holding onto first place with 30 points. California Baptist is the only team that controls its destiny, meaning that if the Lancers (9-1) win out they’ll claim the PacWest crown for the second straight season.

CBU, however, has a difficult final four games as it faces third place Grand Canyon twice, fourth place Point Loma once, and sixth place Dixie State once. Point Loma was the only team to defeat the Lancers this season, recording a 3-0 victory on Oct. 2.

Azusa Pacific’s final home match of the year will be on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when the Cougars welcome Dixie State a week before they end their season on the road at Dixie State.