AZUSA, Calif.-- For the fourth time in the last four years a postseason women’s soccer match between Point Loma and Azusa Pacific came down to a shootout. And for the third time in that span it was the Sea Lions that came away the victors, this time after a 24-shot marathon of PKs ended with Point Loma storming the field after clinching its spot in the NCCAA West Region final.
The Cougars (13-5-1) and Sea Lions (12-4-3) played to a 1-1 draw through 110 minutes of action despite Azusa Pacific controlling the majority of the match. The Cougars out-shot the Sea Lions 18-6 (15-4 in regulation) and created numerous scoring chances, but an 83rd minute score off a 45-yard free kick was all Point Loma needed to force overtime and eventually advance to face California Baptist on Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t think we played as well as we were capable of, but I thought we played well enough to win the game. They got one opportunity and converted and I’m still not even sure how they scored. We had some other chances that we didn’t put away and that turned out to be the difference,” said head coach Jason Surrell.
Kendra Trifonovitch opened the shootout with a score, but the Sea Lions responded by converting their first thee PKs to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Then with Point Loma needing just one Cougar miss or one more goal with its two remaining shots senior keeper Michelle Wieland rose to the challenge, keeping the Cougars alive when she dove to her right to stop Jessica Van Loo’s would-be clincher.
Sophomore Logan Chan then staved off elimination for another round, burying her PK past Tiffany Kracy, who had a hand in Point Loma’s 2009 shootout win over the Cougars in the GSAC semifinals. Following a miss off the left bar from Claire Mathews Allie Stone tied the shootout at 3-3, forcing what turned out to be 12 not-so-sudden death rounds of PKs.
With the Cougars shooting first in each round Point Loma played follow the leader, matching Azusa Pacific make for make, and miss for miss. After the 3-3 tie Azusa Pacific and Point Loma nailed six consecutive attempts before Kracy made a key block in the ninth round, diving to her left for the stop after the Cougars scored right side on three straight shots. Leah Porter then had a chance to end it, but Wieland dove left for the block. After a round of makes and a round of misses Kracy made her fourth block of the shootout in the 12th, setting up Kaycie Hanlin for the clincher.
“I’ve never seen that many rounds in a shootout. When you’re down 3-1 with two to go you don’t think your chances are very good. But after tying it up you almost feel like you have the momentum to win it,” said Surrell, who joking challenged Sea Lion coach Tim Hall to a shootout after 10 rounds. “I’ve never seen that many rounds in a shootout. Hats off to them, there were three instances where their season was on the line and they came through.”
Natalie Sun scored the Cougars’ lone goal in the 76th minute when she gathered a cross from Heidi Witschi in the middle of the box and placed it right side for her team-leading seventh goal of the year. But Point Loma notched the equalizer seven minutes later off a 45-yard free kick from Kallie Caldwell. On the play the midfielder played the ball deep into the box amongst a cluster of Cougars and Sea Lions before Krista Gregory managed to get a piece of it with her head to knot the match at 1-1. It was Point Loma’s first, and only, shot on goal of the night and was only the team’s second true opportunity of the contest.
The Sea Lions’ only other chance came in the 21st minute when Madi White pushed her shot wide of the post after getting behind the Cougars’ backline for a one-on-one with Wieland along the right side of the box.
The Cougars created plenty of opportunities throughout the night. In the first half Sun found Emily Wood on the right side of the box, setting up the senior in point blank range before Wood’s attempt sailed over the bar.
In the 33rd minute Sun made another great pass, crossing the ball from the right side to Amanda Hardy, whose shot deflected off a Sea Lion and rolled merely inches to the right of the post. In the 50th minute Sun continued to give the Cougars chances, looping the ball right-to-left over the box to Witschi, but Azusa Pacific again couldn’t cash in thanks a vital defensive play from Porter.
With the loss the Cougars will have to wait to see how the other seven NCCAA Regionals play out before learning if they’ll be the one at-large team selected to compete in the NCCAA national championships in Kissimmee, Fla.