ST. GEORGE, Utah-- Back on September 25 the Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team was reeling, in its own way. The Cougars, who had never lost more than four matches in a single season since head coach Jason Surrell took over the program 13 years ago, had just come off a tough loss to Point Loma, which dropped the them to 3-5, and 2-2 in Pacific West Conference play.
Following the match Surrell gave his team something to rally around, and since that day Azusa Pacific has been on a tear, winning 10 straight matches, culminating with a 2-1 defeat of Dixie State (Utah) to close out the regular season on Saturday night.
“I just felt like we didn’t have a clear direction. Without the NAIA tournament, something that we understood what it takes to get to, we didn’t really have a clear common goal. It was probably my fault with not directing them,” said Surrell.
“I told them you’re ‘3-5 and 9th in the PacWest,’ and I asked ‘When was the last time we were there?’ Then I told them my goal for you now is to win 10 straight. We accomplished that goal and it’s something we’re really proud of. We’re going to enjoy this. When you have a group rally around a common goal it’s a pretty cool thing to be part.”
The Cougars (13-5), who finished 12-2 in the PacWest, got a first half goal from Lynsey Browne, while sophomore forward Amanda Hardy’s first collegiate score lifted Azusa Pacific to its 10th straight win.
Dixie State (6-10-2; 6-8 PWC) nearly broke the 0-0 stalemate in the 29th minute when Kelsey Hansen sent in a shot directed for the upper third of the goal, but senior keeper Michelle Wieland just got her hands on and deflected it over the bar to force a corner kick. Wieland finished with three saves in the match.
The Cougars got on the board after Dixie State was called for a foul 10 yards outside the box. On the ensuing play Hardy found Browne deep in the box, who then finished to give Azusa Pacific a 1-0 advantage in the 38th minute. The Cougars went into halftime leading 1-0 after an evenly played first half, narrowly out-shooting Dixie State 3-2.
In the second half Hardy connected for her first goal of her career, scoring right post from 15 yards for the eventual game-winner in the 51st minute. The Red Storm made it close in the 67th when Kimberly Thurman found the back of the net from 16 yards out, cutting the deficit to just a score.
But the Azusa Pacific defense, as usual, stepped up, holding Dixie State to just one shot over the remainder of the contest, completing the Cougars’ season sweep of the Red Storm.
Azusa Pacific put six of its nine shots on target, compared to four for Dixie State. Natalie Sun put both of her shots on goal.
With the win the Cougars positioned themselves well for the National Christian College Athletics Association postseason. Azusa Pacific, Point Loma, and California Baptist all have a chance at earning the West Region’s top-seed, which would likely include a first round bye, in the upcoming tournament. As soon as postseason information is finalized it can be found on the Azusa Pacific athletics website.