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Cougars Close in on GSAC Crown

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October 21, 2002
Micah McDaniel
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IRVINE, Calif. -- The NAIA's No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific closed in on its third straight GSAC crown with a crucial 2-0 conference victory this afternoon over No. 12 Concordia on the Eagles' home field in Irvine, Calif.

With the victory, the Cougars solidify their hold on first place in the GSAC, leading Westmont by a half of game with 3 contests to play, all are against teams in the lower half of the GSAC.

In the win over Concordia, the Cougars scored a pair of goals in the final 12 minutes of the contest to secure their eighth straight win over the Eagles. Freshman Britany Nachtrieb notched her first-ever collegiate goal on a 15-yard one-timer with in the 79th minute. Then with just 32 seconds left, All-GSAC Stephanie Bays scored her fourth goal of the season on a 10-yard shot past a pair of Eagle defenders to clinch the win.

"The first half was even," said Cougar coach Jason Surrell, "but in the second half we really played well. I think since we were coming off such a big game on Saturday (2-0 victory at Point Loma Nazarene), that it was hard physically to come back so quick against a team of Concordia's skill. But mentally we stepped it up in the second half. It was a gritty performance by the ladies."

Led by All-American Jennifer Sousa, the Cougar defense held Concordia to just 4 shots while recording its third straight shutout and its sixth in 11 games this season.

"The long layoff in September really hurt us," added Surrell, "and we were still shuffling players for some time afterwards. We have fallen into a line-up that we're sticking with. The defense is outstanding and is not giving up any opportunities. Sousa is playing the best she's played in her 4 years. She is really incredible right now."

With the victory Azusa Pacific improves to 9-2 on the season, 6-1 in the GSAC. Concordia, which is enjoying its best season in program history, falls to 11-3-1 overall, 3-3-1 in the GSAC.

As it heads into its final 2 weeks of the regular season, Azusa Pacific has just 3 GSAC games left on the slate -- vs. Fresno Pacific, The Master's and Christian Heritage, which are a combined 5-13 in conference play this season.

"We need to be ready for 3 more," added Surrell.