AZUSA, Calif.-- After graduating 11 seniors and adding 16 newcomers to the roster, nobody really knew what to expect from the 2013 women’s soccer team. Now, nobody really knows how to beat them.
On Saturday afternoon the Cougars (12-1-1, 10-0-1) clinched the program’s first Pacific West Conference championship, defeating the reigning PacWest champs of California Baptist (10-5, 9-2) in an exciting 1-0 match that featured a pair of teams that have dominated the league’s landscape over the past two seasons. Azusa Pacific extended its shutout streak to nine matches, and after getting an 86th minute goal, held off a potent Lancer offense over the final four minutes to earn the program’s 11th conference championship.
“I’ve been doing this for so long that there are only so many firsts I have left. So to win the first PacWest title in program history is pretty cool. You have to give credit to CBU. They played really well today, and it was a huge win for us,” said head coach Jason Surrell. “Before the season we kind of joked about how we don’t have rebuilding years at Azusa Pacific. But when you graduate 11 players, and add so many new pieces it’s hard to envision this kind of success. With such little experience coming into the season it’s pretty cool to watch this team win the conference championship.”
Mayra Almazan, who was one of six starters on Saturday that weren’t on the team a season ago, scored the match’s lone goal in the 86th minute, dribbling past two CBU defenders before scoring left post from 10 yards out. The goal was the sophomore’s eighth of the season, ending a seven match shutout streak for the Lancers, who, like the Cougars, didn’t allow a goal in the month of October.
Azusa Pacific’s defense held the PacWest’s highest scoring offense scoreless for the first time since Sept. 25, extending the Cougars’ shutout streak to a program-record 875 minutes. Freshman keeper Sarah Klinkenberg recorded four saves, and senior defender Allie Stone came up with two key stops to help the Cougars register their 10th clean sheet of the season.
“It all goes back to our work as a group. Klinkenberg didn’t have to make many big saves, but when we needed her to step up she did. Our defense has proven its worth through the course of the season, but to do it against a team like CBU that’s been scoring like crazy is impressive. Allie, Danielle Ross, and Natalie Nick have been great all season back there, and they did really well again today,” said Surrell, who won his 10th conference championship as the Cougars head coach.
Azusa Pacific, which is currently riding a 21-match unbeaten streak in PacWest action, put only two shots on goal, but managed to keep a veteran CBU team out of the net despite 16 shots, six shots on goal, and nine corner kicks for the Lancers. The Cougars tallied 11 shots on the afternoon, with Cassidy Burr recording the team’s only other shot on goal.
The Cougars will close out their regular season schedule on Saturday at Point Loma before competing in the National Christian College Athletics Association postseason in mid-November, with dates still to be determined.