KISSIMMEE, Fla.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team opened pool play with a 2-1 win over Houghton (N.Y.) in its first match of the National Christian College Athletics Association national championship tournament on Tuesday in Kissimmee, Fla. The Cougars scored once in each half, and got the game-winning goal from Katelyn Rogers with 13 minutes left in regulation to set up a win and advance game against Trinity Christian on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. (EST).
The Cougars controlled things early with a 1-0 lead heading into the half after outshooting Houghton 6-3. But the Highlanders were aggressive out of break, and knotted the score at 1-1 in the 63rd minute on a strike from the top right corner of the box past a diving Sarah Klinkenberg. The Cougars slowly got the momentum back, and created numerous go-ahead chances before Rogers gave Azusa Pacific the lead for good.
In the 77th minute the freshman midfielder ignited a counter, dribbled down the middle of the field, and dumped it off to Stephanie Lossau along the right side of the box. Lossau then crossed it across the box to Alyx Williams, who found Rogers around the six before the rookie found the back of the net for her first game-winning goal of the season.
The Cougars outshot Houghton 16-6 in the game, and held a 10-3 advantage in the second half, while generating the only two corners of the game over the final 45 minutes.
Allyn Brown put Azusa Pacific on the board in the first half on an impressive individual effort in the 34th minute. The Pepperdine transfer moved past a defender near the top of the box, worked her way left, and then looped the ball over the keeper and into the right side of the goal for her first score of the season to end a 218 minute scoring drought for the third-seeded Cougars.
Azusa Pacific did a good job of maintaining possession for the better part of the first half, although Houghton recorded the first two shots of the match. The Highlanders got off their first shot in the ninth minute, sending one in from the top of the box before Klinkenberg safely wrangled it in.
Midway through the opening frame Rogers gave Azusa Pacific its first great chance when she made her way down the field and nearly controlled a deep cross at the six. The ball, however, took a hard bounce and the keeper pulled it in to keep the Cougars off the board.
Two possessions later Victoria Kovatch had a second header land at her feet near the penalty area, but her shot ricocheted off a defender and Houghton cleared it out of danger.
The Cougars registered six first half shots and placed two on goal while Houghton tabbed three shots and one shot on goal.
Shannon Hardy had a good opportunity early in the second half as one of two Cougars to get behind the Highlanders’ backline. She then received a touch from Haley Williamson to get 1-v-1 with the keeper along the right side before her right footed strike was stopped on a diving snare by the Houghton keeper.
In the 72nd minute Rogers nearly put the Cougars on top on a header off a deep cross alone in the box, but Houghton’s Shawna Sprout was there for one of her six saves on the day.
With just under 10 minutes to play Williams nearly connected in front of an open goal, but arrived a moment too late. She had another chance to add to the Cougar lead in the waning minutes, but the Houghton keeper made a leaping stop, and on the ensuing corner Rogers’ header was stopped.
With the win Azusa Pacific has a chance to advance to the semifinals with a win over Trinity Christian, which defeated Houghton 3-1 on Monday. The Cougars and Trolls will face off at 4:30 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday.