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One Step Closer

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Photo by Holly Magnuson

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Published
October 30, 2013
By
Chris Baker
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FRESNO, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team moved one step closer to claiming the program’s first Pacific West Conference championship on Wednesday night, defeating Fresno Pacific 1-0 to improve to 9-0-1 in league play. Mayra Almazan gave the Cougars (11-1-1) a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute before the stout Azusa Pacific defense extended its shutout streak to 785 minutes to record its eighth consecutive shutout and close the month of October without allowing a goal.

“As a program winning a conference championship, whether it’s the GSAC or the PacWest, is one of our goals. It’s what we always set out to do, and we’re happy that we’re in a position to do that this late in the season,” said head coach Jason Surrell, who guided the Cougars to nine Golden State Athletic Conference championships before Azusa Pacific joined the PacWest in 2012.

“We have two really difficult matches coming up and we know it’s going to be tough. California Baptist has a lot of weapons and they’re always a real difficult matchup. And then we end against a really good Point Loma team. So I’m happy we got the win today and we can work towards playing CBU this Saturday.”

Alamzan found the back of the net in the 15th, scoring from 30 yards out after tucking the ball into the lower right corner for her seventh goal of the season. Her goal was one of 15 first half shots for the Cougars, who out-shot the Sunbirds (6-7-1, 4-4-1) 24-3 in the win. Azusa Pacific’s stifling defense, which gave up only one shot on goal, continued one of the program’s lengthiest shutout streaks by handing Fresno Pacific its third straight scoreless loss. The team’s current run of shutouts is only topped by a run of nine straight clean sheets in back 2001.

“With the amount of shutouts we’ve had it’s hard not to look at and be impressed. There are so many new players, so to be where we’re at is a credit to the quality of players we have and the hard work they’ve put in,” said Surrell.

Azusa Pacific has been so dominant defensively that it hasn’t even allowed a score in the run of play all season, with two of the four goals allowed this year coming via penalty kicks, and the other two coming on set pieces.

With 28 points Azusa Pacific has a chance to clinch the program’s first PacWest title on Saturday with a win against California Baptist (27 points), which has already earned the league’s automatic bid for NCAA postseason play. Azusa Pacific, which is in year No. 3 of transitioning towards full NCAA Division II membership, is not yet eligible for NCAA postseason play.

The Cougars and Lancers will square off on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day before Azusa Pacific closes the regular season at Point Loma next Saturday.