(AZUSA, Calif.) – All-GSAC Karin Sullivan scored in the 14th minute for the game’s lone goal to lift the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Westmont to a 1-0 win over No. 3 Azusa Pacific in the NAIA Region II Championship match at Azusa Square Field in Azusa.
The win clinches an automatic berth to the 2002 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Tournament Nov. 21-26 in St. Charles, Mo. for Westmont. Meanwhile, the Cougars must wait until tomorrow to see if they will earn one of 2 at-large berths.
In a game where the run of play was virtually dominated by Azusa Pacific, Sullivan and the Warriors broke through early then held off several Cougar charges. The Warriors’ Kristi Peich carried the ball to the touchline, cut back up field then sent a low ball into the box. Practically unmarked, Sullivan one-timed the ball to the far post and past Cougar GK Melissa Strother into the open net.
That was all the Warriors needed. From that point Westmont sat back and fended off numerous Cougar attacks, 15 of which came off of corner kicks. However, each time the Cougars came close to threatening, the tough Warrior defense led by All-GSAC Kristin Kleen and All-GSAC GK Jaclyn Maag clamped down and thwarted the attacks.
The Cougars best chance to get the equalizer came in the final 2 minutes of play when All-GSAC and leading-scorer Erin Arbizu sharply headed a cross towards the net. However, Maag came up with one of her 5 saves to preserve the win.
Azusa Pacific outshot Westmont 11-8 and had 12 more corner kicks (15-3) than the Warriors but failed to find the net.
The win is the Warriors fifth in the past 10 meetings with Azusa Pacific, and it is the fifth match in the past 10 that has been decided by just 1 goal. The Cougars and Warriors have now beaten each other twice in 4 NAIA Region II Finals since 1998.
Despite its No. 3 ranking, Azusa Pacific trails 4 teams, including Westmont, in the LONGO rating system and must now get help from at least 2 other teams in order to obtain one of 2 available at-large berths. The Cougars need at least 2 of 3 teams (Union, Ky., Lindenwood, Mo. or Berry, Ga.) to win their respective regional finals. No. 1-ranked Union won its regional final, 5-2, earlier today, so now Azusa Pacific needs either No. 2 Lindenwood or No. 5 Berry to win to have a chance at an at-large berth. Lindenwood plays Missouri Baptist tonight at 5 p.m. (PST). Berry plays Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) tomorrow at 11 a.m. (PST).