AZUSA, Calif.-- The final score doesn’t always tell the whole story, and that was clearly the case in Azusa Pacific’s 2-0 loss to Point Loma in the NCCAA West Region final. The Cougars (12-3-1) controlled possession all night, dominated the second half, and despite a 13-3 shot disparity over the final 45 minutes, the Cougars are now left wondering if they’ll play again this season.
“It’s crazy. I thought we played some of our best soccer of the year. It was as dominant of a 45 minutes as we’ve played all season. Give them credit. They played well and did a nice job of withstanding our run,” said head coach Jason Surrell. “I can’t complain, it’s the game of soccer. There will be times where we win and don’t play well, and others when we play well and don’t win like tonight. I was happy with the way we competed and created opportunities, and if we get an at-large bid, I feel good about where we’re at and how we’re playing.”
Point Loma (11-7-1) got on the board in the eighth minute, and added a security goal in the 87th. All the while in between Azusa Pacific sent 17 shots the Sea Lions’ way, coming up empty in the team’s first match in over a week and a half. The Cougars generated seven corner kicks, and had the ball in the final third for a good portion of the final 70 minutes.
Azusa Pacific put six shots on goal in the second half, and couldn’t cash in on numerous other chances in the second frame as Point Loma clinched an automatic bid to the NCCAA national championships. The Cougars will wait until Sunday to hear whether or not they’ll receive an at-large bid to the national championships in Kissimmee, Fla. beginning on Dec. 2.
“It’s certainly frustrating that we didn’t put at least three or four goals away. We hadn’t played in over a week, and to get the feel of a game again took us a little bit. But for a good 70 minutes we were sharp and good on the attack. I can’t ask for anything more from our players because I thought we played really well,” said Surrell.
Azusa Pacific finished with a 17-7 shot advantage, recorded a 7-1 edge in corner kicks, and had two goals wiped away on offsides calls.
The Sea Lions got on the board early, scoring in the eighth minute on Dottie Rhoten’s seventh goal of the season. On the play Sydney Dreeves threw it into a cluttered box, and after the ball pinballed off a few players, Rhoten rolled it past Sarah Klinkenberg to give the Sea Lions a 1-0 lead.
From then on the Cougars generated chance after chance, and it seemed only a matter of time before they’d finally find the back of the net. Late in the first half Azusa Pacific had a great opportunity when Haley Arft sent a deep pass to Lindsey Ryals down the sideline, and Ryals nearly connected with Haley Fisher in front of the goal, but her cross just went over Fisher’s head.
In the second half Katelyn Rogers broke through the Sea Lion defense twice, the first of which when she got into a one-v-one situation with the keeper in the 56th, only to have Ariel Oriarte make a sliding stop near the penalty area to keep the score at 1-0. In the 83rd Rogers again got behind Point Loma’s back line, and this time beat the keeper, but in the process was forced wide and had to settle for a shot outside of the right side of the box, which was sent away by a Sea Lion defender.
In the 51st minute Mayra Almazan found Ryals alone in the middle of the box, but Ryals’ shot from close range sailed just over the bar. Azusa Pacific had another great chance in the 68th minute when Amanda Hardy was fouled two yards in front of the box. Logan Chan took the free kick and heeled it to Haley Fisher, who placed her shot just over the goal.
In the 87th minute Point Loma all-but sealed the victory with a goal by Porter, but the Cougars continued to fight, getting three shots on goal in the final minute of action before the Sea Lions clinched the West Region championship.
With the loss Azusa Pacific will need to rely on the body of work it built up in its Pacific West Conference championship season, in hopes of receiving an at-large berth to the NCCAA national championships. The Cougars will find out their fate on Sunday, and for up to the minute news on Azusa Pacific athletics follow @APUCougars on Twitter.